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The New Nativism

Proposition 187 and the Debate over Immigration

2008
Author:

Robin Dale Jacobson

The New Nativism

Challenges the role of the “race card” in contemporary politics

Examining the dynamics of the Proposition 187 political battle, The New Nativism questions racism as the motivating factor for political action both at the time and in the high-stakes, hotly contested immigration debates of today. Moving beyond inflammatory headlines and polarizing rhetoric, Jacobson reveals that it is not so much prejudice but the very act of defining race that lies at the center of modern American politics.

A very well crafted, important book. I recommend it highly.

Howard Winant, author of The New Politics of Race

In 1994, California voters flocked to the polls in record numbers because of a ballot measure—Proposition 187—that was designed to deny social services to undocumented immigrants. A majority of voters favored the proposition, and accusations of racism flew in all directions.
A U.S. District Court ultimately overturned it, but to this day Proposition 187 represents a watershed moment in the immigration debate.

Examining the dynamics of that political battle, The New Nativism questions racism as the motivating factor for political action both at the time and in the high-stakes, hotly contested immigration debates of today. Robin Jacobson’s work, based on in-depth interviews with supporters of Proposition 187, unpacks the role race played in their support of the measure. Jacobson finds that rather than being motivated primarily by racism, proponents connected racial identity, ideas of fairness, and traditional American values in surprising, often contradictory, ways. As individual activists on both sides of the debate struggled to make sense of their political and ideological commitments in light of immigration issues, the meaning and import of race and citizenship were conflated in their minds.

Investigating a key moment in grassroots political activism, The New Nativism sifts through the claims of racism that dominate current immigration debates and humanizes the discussion in important and potentially controversial ways. Moving beyond inflammatory headlines and polarizing rhetoric, Jacobson reveals that it is not so much prejudice but the very act of defining race that lies at the center of modern American politics.

The New Nativism

Robin Dale Jacobson is assistant professor of political science at Bucknell University. She has written and spoken about issues of immigration, race, and social movements.

The New Nativism

A very well crafted, important book. I recommend it highly.

Howard Winant, author of The New Politics of Race

Robin Dale Jacobson has produced a subtle, brilliantly argued account of how California's Proposition 187 was enacted and came, despite its main measures being found unconstitutional, to exercise a profound influence on the legal, economic, cultural, and political dimensions of U.S. citizenship. It is a major achievement.

Desmond King, University of Oxford

This book is a valuable study of the complex interaction between race and politics.

Choice

Clearly well read in history, anthropology, and sociology as well as political science, Jacobson provides a compelling post-structural analysis. . . . Jacobson’s work is a significant contribution to our understanding of racial formations at the turn of the twenty-first century.

The New Nativism

This smart study contributes much to our conversation about racial politics today and, as a case study, tells us a lot about shifts in racism, the grassroots dimension of anti-immigration legislation, and the changing nature of our times.

Patterns of Prejudice

The years to come will show Jacobson’s The New Nativism to be an important work, making an impact in a variety of fields, from twentieth-century history and political science to Latina/o studies and critical whiteness studies.

Latino Studies