Fighting the “Immigrant Threat” Narrative

Immigration, Policies

Fighting the “Immigrant Threat” Narrative

Ruth Milkman’s latest book is a strong scholarly response to the “immigrant threat” narrative that has been central to U.S. politics in the last decades. In Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat, the distinguished labor and migration scholar has a clear goal: to reframe the conversation about migration and increased inequality in the United States, reversing the causal relation that blames migration for the U.S. working class’s current perils. In a succinct but engaging fashion, Milkman shows how the flux of low-wage immigrants into the U.S. workforce in recent decades is “not the cause either of the massive economic restructuring that began in the 1970s or the accompanying growth of economic inequality and labor degradation,” but precisely a consequence of these developments (12).

In what many ways constitutes a tour de force, Milkman effectively mobilizes forty years of migration scholarship to address the main talking points of the growing nativism in U.S. politics, including the overall impact of migrant workers on working conditions and wages, whether migrant workers replace or displace local workforces, and migrant workers’ relation to organized labor and their supposed unorganizability.

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