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Immigration and the American Ethos, Morris Levy and Matthew Wright

Reviewed by Viviana Rivera-Burgos

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Ambivalent, complex, idiosyncratic, divergent, moderate, uncertain, and perplexing are just some of the words that Morris Levy and Matthew Wright use to describe Americans’ attitudes toward immigrants and immigration policy. The fact that many Americans prefer fewer immigrants and more enforcement of immigration law, while simultaneously supporting a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, is a case in point. In Immigration and the American Ethos, Levy and Wright offer a compelling answer to this puzzle: a set of values that are deeply ingrained in American political culture can explain the inconsistency in public opinion about immigration much better than the leading scholarly perspectives on the topic.

The most prominent among the latter—the group-centrist explanation—holds that individuals will support policies that favor their in-group (groups they feel attached to) or that harm their out-group (groups they feel threatened by). The important role of prejudice in American public opinion notwithstanding, these theories overstate the influence of racial identity on attitudes toward immigration. Rather than racial identity, civic fairness—“a set of normative beliefs about what current and aspiring members ow

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