Stories from the lives of recent US immigrants--featuring the 80 percent who now come from Asia and Latin America--with a...


THE NEW AMERICANS: Changing Patterns in U.S. Immigration

Stories from the lives of recent US immigrants--featuring the 80 percent who now come from Asia and Latin America--with a brief introductory reprise of US immigration history and a brief concluding discussion of current immigration issues. Though Ashabranner's writing is bland, it is simple and clear; though he frequently straddles the fence (almost inevitably, on illegal immigration), he does fairly indicate the conflicting positions. And his individual stories do add up to a representative, if mostly upbeat, sampling. There is the large Vietnamese-family-by-marriage of American civilian worker Frank Brown, airlifted out in 1975 and now--thanks to the subsequent boat-escape of father-in-law Hai--ensconced one-and-all in Ocean Spring, Miss. Also among the Vietnamese: the Royal Laotian Classical Dance Troupe, reconstituted (via a Thai refugee camp) in Nashville; the several hundred Cambodians--""uneducated,"" ""gentle,"" ""hard-working""--sheltered by Oklahoma City's Catholic Refugee Resettlement Program; and--for a glimpse of the darker side--testimony of homesickness (""most refugees would return. . ."") and word of the Gulf Coast fishing troubles. The Koreans are shown to be seeking education for their children (some dubious, unsourced statistics here, however); the Arabs, education for themselves. The Filipino husband-and-wife exemplify America's traditional lure for the venturesome. From Latin America and the Caribbean come: a Los Angeles processor of Mexican foods (re the Hispanic market and way-of-life); an El Paso mechanic and his border-straddling family (epitomizing the incongruities of immigration policy); diverse Haitians, driven here ""by fear, poverty, the hope of a better life or all three"" (who raise the problem of defining a refugee); a member of the 1980 Cuban boat-lift (who occasions a positive, air-clearing update on that episode); and a Jamaican doing very well indeed in Washington, D.C. (suggesting, not erroneously, that Jamaicans have what it takes). Material on the scanty immigration from Africa challenges the three current bases-of-choice--family unification, job skill, political or religious persecution-and also raises the brain-drain issue; apropos of Europe, the position of the Russian Jews is mentioned and a Czech refugee appears. In the last chapter, demographer Leon Bouvier explains the implications of current trends (""a Multicultural Society"") and Ashabranner describes the pending Simpson-Mazzoli Bill, designed chiefly to deal with the illegal-immigrant problem. Judith Bentley's American Immigration Today (1981) offers a considerably more developed discussion of the groups and the issues, and even the second, contemporary half of Lydia Anderson's Immigration (1981) has more social-science-type material. But Ashabranner's personalized, feature approach covers a lot of ground in an undemanding fashion.

Pub Date: June 15, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983