Auteur: S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and lrene Bloemraad (red)
Immigrants, community organizations and political engagement
For many Americans, civic participation lays the groundwork for future political engagement. Community organizing often leads to political action. But how does this model of civic life relate to the experiences of today’s immigrants? Do community organizations help immigrants gain political influence in their communities? In Civic Hopes and Political Realities, experts from a wide range of disciplines explore how civic groups across the country and around the world are shaping immigrants’ quest for political recognition.
Civic Hopes and Political Realities bridges the fields of civic engagement and immigrant adaptation for the first time. S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and lrene Bloemraad examine community organizations in six cities across California and find that even in areas with high rates of immigrant organizing, local policymakers remain unaware of the interests of ethnic organizations. Kristi Andersen examines new immigrant destinations, and finds that with political parties no longer serving as the primary vehicle for newcomers’ political incorporation, community organizations are increasingly stepping in to fill this void. However, the success of civic groups in connecting their members to the local political machinery depends on their ability to forge connections with mainstream organizations. Floris Vermeulen and Maria Berger document how government policies lead to very different civic and political outcomes for ethnic organizations. Amsterdam’s more welcoming multicultural policies help immigrant community groups attain a level of political clout that similar organizations in Berlin lack. Janelle Wong, Kathy Rim, and Haven Perez report on a study of Latino and Asian American evangelical churches. While the church shapes members’ views on issues such as abortion and same— sex marriage, church members may also question the evangelical movement’s position on such issues as civil rights and immigration. Els de Graauw finds that many non-partisan service organizations play a crucial role in advancing the political interests of immigrants. Recent cuts in non-profit funding, she argues, block not only the provision of key social services, but also an important avenue for immigrants’ political voice.
Many observers worry that America’s increasing diversity is detrimental to civic life and political engagement. Civic Hopes and Political Realities boldly advances an alternative mode of thinking: if civic life is declining in an age of increasing immigration, it may well be due to the fact that America’s civic playing field is alarmingly unequal.