The Quiet Immigration- Foreign Spouses

The Quiet Immigration- Foreign Spouses - The Quiet...

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The Quiet Immigration: Foreign Spouses 1 I of U.S. Citizens, 1945-1985 I I MICHAEL C. THORNTON While contact between people of similar racial and national back- grounds remains the rule, since 1945 world events have conspired to increase tremendously the contacts among diverse populations. As legal restrictions have fallen, and as racist attitudes have become less pronounced, crosscultural and cross-racial contact has grown in acceptance. For Americans, one consequence of this expanded contact has been the growing phenomenon of intergroup marriage. The significance of intergroup marriage lies in its challenge to norms of deference and social distance that serve to separate minority groups from the majority. The literature regularly examines how intermarriage relates to issues of assimilation, which is contingent on prior cultural and structural assimilation. Typically, this literature describes interreligious or interracial unions between couples of sim- ilar national backgrounds (e.g., American citizens). Following World War 11, marriage rates between people of various cultural, national, and racial heritages increased dramatically. However, this trend has received little attention (Cottrell, 1990). Along with a precipitous rise in numbers has been a radical shift in the origins of the foreign spouses involved. Since the 19.50~~ European spouses have been gradually replaced as a primary source by those from the Third World, Asia in The Quiet Immigration 65 particular. How these relationships will be incorporated into and change American life is perhaps one of the most intriguing questions for the twenty-first century. Despite 40 years of immigration, we know little about these cou- ples, and what we do know is limited and dated and highlights secalled war bride unions (e.g., Barnett, 1963; Cottrell, 1990; B.-L. C. Kim, 1977) or centers on marriages of American citizens who are foreign residents (e.g., Cottrell, 1990; Imamura, 1986). Perhaps the subject has received little attention because it is a relatively new large-scale phenomenon. It is, however, a significant type of migra- tion, because of its increasing volume, its racial composition, and the potential insights its examination may reveal about the immigration process, intergroup relations, ethnic socialization, and cultural influ- ences on marital adjustment. The study of this increasingly common kind of marriage may provide insight into new family and personality types that reflect and are particularly suited for life in a mobile postmodern world; children from these relationships may provide the prototype of the world citizen of the future. The cultural and racial heritages of the foreign spouses married to citizens in the United States is closely associated with U.S. immigra- tion policy. Thus the configuration of this phenomenon must be seen within historical, social, and legal contexts. Feelings of antipathy toward non-White peoples have been reflected in statutes making immigration and naturalization eligibility contingent upon geo-
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The Quiet Immigration- Foreign Spouses - The Quiet...

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