In Whose Interest? Political parties, context, and the incorporation of immigrants

Kristi Andersen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

8 Scopus citations


The inclusion of immigrants in the American political system has been a subject of contention throughout American history. In the mid-nineteenth century, the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic Know-Nothing party became popular for its support of nativist policies, such as prohibiting immigrants from holding public office and increasing the length of the waiting period before U.S. citizenship could be obtained. Although there is no direct contemporary analog to the “Know-Nothings,” the questions of how immigrants are included or excluded, the definition of their roles in the political system, and the potential for political change from the addition of large new groups of citizens remain salient today as the size of the immigrant population in the United States continues to grow. Indeed, contemporary debate on issues such as guest worker programs, access of immigrants to social services, and voting rights for non-citizens in New York City and elsewhere testifies to the persistent importance of issues surrounding immigration and naturalization. Political parties are often identified as the driving force behind immigrant political incorporation in the United States, a perception fortified by the widespread image of early-twentieth-century machine politicians trading food baskets and patronage for votes in Irish and Italian immigrant communities. An important function of political parties is to mobilize mass publics, but their overriding goal is to win elections, and parties will attempt to activate voters only when it is in their interest to do so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Race Politics in America
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding Minority and Immigrant Politics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780511790577
ISBN (Print)9780521854276
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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