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Beyond insiders and outsiders: welfare and immigration reforms in 1960s US

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Both welfare and immigration policies sort, monitor and handle people, but each targets a different population. Whereas welfare policies address those who reside within national borders, immigration policies address those who originate outside of them. What, if any, is the logic underlying the relationship between welfare and immigration policies? A growing interest in this subject in Europe postulates that states with generous welfare policies execute restrictive immigration policies, while states with limited welfare policies are relatively open to outsiders. Plausible as this explanatory logic sounds, it does not resonate with the main currents of the 1960s in the US, in which both welfare and immigration policies witnessed far-reaching expansions (The War on Poverty of 1964 and the Immigration Act of 1965). Using official archival material and secondary sources, I argue that welfare and immigration during the 1960s were indirectly linked through the Civil Rights discourse of the time. A growing awareness of racial discrimination was one of the main reasons for the War on Poverty, but it never became a legitimate rationale for addressing poverty in the 1960s. In immigration, on the other hand, racial discrimination provided the main discursive frame for abolishing the quota system. Civil Rights discourse at the time was thus more dominant in the process of homogenizing distinctions between whites from diverse ethnic and national origins than in addressing the correlation between race and poverty. This case both calls into question the argument that immigration policy depends on welfare policy and demonstrates that welfare recipients and immigrants do not constitute a homogenized social category. Instead, it shows that in the welfare-immigration equation social distinctions between citizens can be more important than distinctions between citizens and outsiders.
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Keywords: civil rights; immigration; welfare

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The School of Government and Social Policy, Beit Berl Academic College, Kfar Sava, Israel

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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