The New Immigration

Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 307-311, July 1995

6 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2011 Last revised: 10 Jul 2011

See all articles by Rubén G. Rumbaut

Rubén G. Rumbaut

University of California, Irvine - Department of Sociology

Date Written: 1995


Immigration, it has been said, is the sincerest form of flattery. That may well be, but you wouldn't know it from the current political climate. It's open season on immigrants, from Europe to the United States. In Europe, migration and the control of external borders has become an issue of high politics, rising to the top of the policy agenda, even as the European Community (EC) was focusing on abolishing internal borders. In the U.S., it too has been a red-hot topic of public debate in states, focusing yet again with the policy triptych of legal immigrants, illegal aliens, and refugees and asylees. This article reviews a wide variety of policy-oriented books and reports informed by recent scholarship, aimed at once to sharpen the policy debate and to increase public understanding of the nature of immigration and of the policy dilemmas it poses for receiving nations. While the complexity of immigration processes makes them difficult to grasp fully, how a "problem" is perceived and framed (e.g., “illegal immigration”)--including conflicting ideologies, hidden and not-so-hidden agendas and assumptions that underlie many policy recommendations--largely dictates proposed solutions. Debates that serve to "define the situation" are thus critical to the policy process, and here is where rigorous research can make a difference in political discourse. Political compromises may help enact a policy, but they carry built-in contradictions that can plague the implementation process. Such complexities are among the primary sources of unintended consequences, yielding added reasons to reflect on the limits of public policies, particularly when what is sought is nothing less than to control a world on the move. Politics and policy-making, like life itself, are far more tangled and conflictual than the policy recommendations contained in the volumes reviewed here seem to suggest. Still, condemned to try to control a future they cannot predict by reacting to a past that will not be repeated, policymakers are nonetheless faced with an imperative need to act that cannot be ignored as a practical or political matter.

Keywords: Immigrants, Refugees, Undocumented Migration, Immigration Policies and Politics, Border Control, Definition of the Situation, Unintended Consequences

Suggested Citation

Rumbaut, Rubén G., The New Immigration (1995). Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 307-311, July 1995. Available at SSRN:

Rubén G. Rumbaut (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Sociology ( email )

3151 Social Sciences Plaza A
Irvine, CA 92697-5100
United States

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