Category Archives: Lecture 6 The US and the Tired Huddled Masses

Draft. Lecture (autumn semester). The US and the tired huddled masses

Native routes and roots

The ancestors of modern Native Americans may have first entered the continent from Asia between 13,000 and 16,000 years ago via a thin land bridge that once ran across the Bering Sea, connecting Siberia and Alaska. Another possibility is that these early migrants may have voyaged down the Pacific coast by boat, and then moved into the continent’s interior.
Ancestors of the Native Americans gradually spread not only across North America, but also into Central and South America.
They divided into distinct tribes with unique cultural practices, religious beliefs, and methods of survival. These tribes had North America to themselves until the opening years of the seventeenth century (Hillstrom, 7).

Colonial immigration


American Protectionism

  • American representations of identity/Imagined Community
  • Migration
  • Terrorism
  • Islam
  • Globalisation and Protectionism
  • Group discussion

The popular idea of America:
the ‘Land of the Free

‘Land of the Free’ a refrain from the US national anthem (Start Spangled Banner)

Immigration and emancipation (freeing the slaves) part of the founding myth of America

  • 1863: proclamation made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday, Abraham Lincoln gave thanks to God for having “largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration.“
  • New Colossus, by Emily Lazarus, 1883Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Imagined community: US as a land of freedom, a nation of immigrants

Ideas about the nation are socially constructed

  • Anderson: Imagined Community, the narratives and forms of communication that work to construct a shared sense of national community
  • Statue of Liberty & Lazurus poem, Lincoln’s speech different kinds of representation that help to construct a way of imagining the US national community


Migration to the US: industrialisation, urbanisation

18th-19th century

  • Industrial Revolution.
  • British Isles late 18th C+
  • Low Countries & Germany early-mid 19th C
  • Eastern and southern Europe late 19th – early 20th C centuries
  • Each revolution produced waves of migration to US of unemployed

20th-21st century globalisation, new industrial revolutions

  • Mexico (massive rural to urban migration in Mexico),
  • Also, Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, India, and the Dominican Republic
  • Each revolution produced waves of migration to US of economic, including unemployed


Migration to US (2014)

  • US population = 264,000,000
  • 1.3 million foreign-born individuals legally moved to US:
  • Indian migrants 147,500 ,
  • Chinese 131,800,
  • Mexican 130,000 (but many more undocumented),
  • Canadian 41,200,
  • Philippines, 40,500.

Undocumented migrants in US

Total undocumented population 2010-2014

  • 11,009,000

States with highest numbers

  • California 3,019,000
  • Texas 1,470,000
  • New York 850,000
  • Approx. half of the undocumented migrants in the US from Mexico; between 5-6,000,000

(Kennedy, 2010, 83)

  • Total Mexican immigrants resident in US approx .11,700,000

(MPI, 2016)


America accepted 84,995 refugees in 2015-16.

  • between 1990 and 1995average 112,000 refugees
  • Much more than 2002, when fewer than 27,000 refugees were admitted following the September 11 terrorist attacks
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo contributed (the highest number of refugees last year at 16,370. Syria was second, with 12,587 refugees from the war-torn nation entering the U.S., followed by Burma, Iraq and Somalia

Muslim citizens and refugees

  • Muslims make up just one percent of the U.S. population.
  • During 2016, Muslims outnumbered Christians among refugees for the first time since 2006.

Muslim 46% Christian 44% refugees

(Pew Research Center,  2016)


  • The typical American overestimates the proportion of Muslims by 17:1
  • Only 41 percent of registered voters said that the U.S. should feel an obligation to take in Syrian refugees PBS, 2016

Trump, migration, protectionism

Trump and Mexican migration

Trump committed to building a wall between Mexico and the US

He committed to deporting undocumented migrants (to sending them back to Mexico and elsewhere)

He committed to removing birthright citizenship (where the children of migrants resident in the US are granted citizenship)

“When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” (Trump, 2016).

Crowds at his political rallies chanted “build the wall”

Trump, Muslim, and Refugee Migration

Before the election Trump said there should be a complete ban on Muslim immigration

  • Trump issues an 90 day ban on migrants from Muslim Majority Countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen (Jan, 2017)
  • Trump stated he preferred the US should take Christian refugees
  • However, US courts judged that the ban is not legal (religious discrimination)
  • Trump issues a new ban on migrants from Muslim Majority Countries, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen (not Iraq)
  • Unlike the first ban, people with visas and green cards exempted, refugees from the banned countries must be treated the same as other refugees; there can be no preference for Christian refugees

Trump, Terrorism, Muslims

  • Migrants from the banned countries not those involved in fatal terrorism in the US (i.e., 9/11 terrorists from UAE, Saudi Arabia)
  • US Dept. Homeland Security advised the ban not effective for preventing terrorism
  • Many US terrorist acts conducted by US citizens: ie., Dylan Roof killed 9 African Americans at church service
  • Obama famously observed that more people drown in their own bathwater per year than from terrorism in the US


Social immobility: American industry, unemployment

Relocating jobs

Since the 1980s, many companies sourced labour in the countries experiencing the new industrial revolution, like China, India …

Often the same areas producing migration to the US

  • This has given rise to high unemployment in former industrial areas like Detroit, where the car industry failed
  • Many of those badly affected are white working class people who formerly had stable jobs and incomes

US Unemployment: who/what is to blame?

  • Trump blames undocumented (Mexican) immigrants for “the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one”.

Terrorism: who/what is to blame?

  • American openness to migration (allowing dangerous Muslims & refugees into US)

Poor economy:

  • Globalised free trade arrangements that fail to protect American industry/workers

Trump’s Protectionism: “Making America Great Again

  • Protecting America from external threats:

Undocumented, Mexican, Muslim, refugee migrants, terrorists

  • Changing trade deals and tariffs to make foreign products more expensive in the US, to protect US industry



Cobb, C. and Stuek, S. eds., (2005) Globalization and the American South, Athens, University of Georgia Press (Ch. 1)

Wacquant, L. (2009), Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity, Durham & London, Duke University Press (Ch. 2)

Wacquant, L. (2008), Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality, Cambridge, Polity Press (Ch. 8)

Schueller, M.J. (2009) Locating Race: Global Sites of Post-Colonial Citizenship, Albany, State University of New York.

Bourguignon, F (2015) The Globalization of Inequality, New Jersey, Princeton University Press (Ch. 2).

Desmond, M. (2016) Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, London, Penguin.

Peterson, R.D. and Krivo, L.J. (2010) Divergent Worlds: Neighbourhood Crime and the Spatial-Racial Divide, New York, Russell Sage Foundation, (Ch. 2).

Kalleberg, A. (2011) Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States, 1970s-2000s, New York, Russell Sage Foundation.

Sassen, S. (2013) ‘Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy’, (Ch. 1) Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, UK, Belknap Press, Harvard University.