The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Scholars Convene for M.H.S. Conference on Recent Immigration

On April 7-9, 2011, scholars from across the U.S. will gather at the MHS—the nation’s oldest historical society—to discuss a question of compelling current interest for American life: What is new about recent immigration? Representatives of city and state agencies, elected officials, and non-profit organizations that work with immigrants have also confirmed their attendance at “What’s New about the New Immigration to the U.S.? Traditions and Transformations since 1965.”

Our goal? To understand not only the current state of U.S. immigration but how we arrived at it. We want to ascertain what is truly new about the new immigration, both documented and undocumented, how it compares to earlier migration waves, and what its consequences have been.

Since 1968, when the Hart-Celler Act, which replaced national quotas with priorities that emphasized education, jobs, and professional skills, went into effect, its provisions have governed immigration at a time when the subject has been intensely controversial. The end of the Vietnam War brought waves of refugees from Southeast Asia. Later, large numbers of arrivals came from the Caribbean, Central and South America, South Asia, East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union.

All of this is prelude to today’s public and political discourse on immigration in multiple contexts including public funding for education and services, national security, states’ rights, and civil and religious liberties. The importance of understanding America’s collective values and direction is keenly felt by a new generation of Americans who find themselves in the midst of emerging majority minority communities and media headlines over topics such as Arizona’s immigration law.

Thursday’s evening’s keynote address speaks to the heart of these issues. “U.S. Refugee Policy in the Post-Cold War Era: Balancing Humanitarian Obligations and Security Concerns” will be presented by Maria Christina Garcia of Cornell University, the author of Seeking Refuge: Central American Immigration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada (2006). This event is open to the public free of charge.

The public is also welcome to register to attend the scholarly sessions on Friday and Saturday. Presenters will include Thomas Adams of Tulane University, Caroline Brettell of Southern Methodist University, Marc S. Rodriguez of the University of Notre Dame, and Xiao-huang Yin of Michigan State University. All told, the conference includes nearly two dozen scholars from across the nation and from half a dozen fields—history, political science, sociology, urban planning, anthropology, and ethnic studies—researchers who are some of the leading commentators on this topic today.

For more information, including a list of presenters and their topics and a detailed schedule, please visit.

permalink | Published: Friday, 25 March, 2011, 8:00 AM