The Political Incorporation of (In)Migrants in the United States: The Case of Puerto Ricans

39 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2011

See all articles by Jose Cruz

Jose Cruz

SUNY University at Albany

Date Written: August 22, 2011


In this paper I look at Puerto Ricans in New York City between 1960-1965 to illustrate aspects of the process of political incorporation as experienced by (in)migrants, that is, foreign-born individuals who enter a host society as citizens. Based on the experience of Puerto Rican political elites and their impact at the mass level, I argue that political incorporation should be understood in terms of the achievement of equality and substantive outcomes. Equality is understood as the achievement of political and social citizenship rights and the measure of substantive outcomes is structural assimilation. Structural assimilation is understood as full membership in the political, social, and economic institutions of the majority leading to at least economic equality. In taking this approach the paper veers off the focus of attention of the immigrant incorporation literature. In the literature, political incorporation is considered to be a function of immigration history and policies instead of being tied to the outcome of political participation after naturalization. The role of citizenship rules, in particular those rules that distinguish between jus sanguinis and jus soli, is particularly prominent in the literature. In most studies, citizenship signals incorporation and the key question is what prompts, hinders, or regulates its adoption among different national groups in Western democracies. The paper begins by suggesting that the literature on immigrant political incorporation is limited because it does not pay enough attention to substantive as opposed to formal indicators of membership in the political and civil society. While a focus on citizenship may appear to suggest equality as a marker of incorporation, the experience of what I call (in)migrants suggests that citizenship is more a starting point than a destination.

Suggested Citation

Cruz, Jose, The Political Incorporation of (In)Migrants in the United States: The Case of Puerto Ricans (August 22, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Jose Cruz (Contact Author)

SUNY University at Albany ( email )

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