Immigration and Politics in the 21st Century: The Rise of Nationalism Versus Pluralism in the United States

Ucheoma Nwagbara


This paper examines the changing concept of pluralism in the United States, especially, in the aftermath of President Trump’s zeitgeist hard line immigration policy. Trump’s immigration agenda is forcefully manifested in ultra-nationalism tendencies including “trade war” (Economy, 2019), “economic populism” (Lenz and Gunter, 2017), “separation of young children from their parents at the border,” “claim of presidential powers to nullify the constitutional right to birthright citizenship” (Shapiro, 2019), “white identity politics” (Confessore, 2016), “racial resentment” (Harris, 2018), “racist nativist micro-aggressions” (Gomez and Huber, 2019), inciting racist and xenophobic rhetoric, such as “anti-Mexicanism and Islamophobia” (Huerta, 2017, p. 57) by the President in the push to advance his “Make America Great Again” and “America First” agendas. The meanness associated with Trump’s rhetoric evokes isolationism, anti-multiculturalism, intolerance, hate, and undermines America’s leadership role in the world. Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft Corporation, is not remiss: “America First worldview concerns me. It’s not that the United States shouldn’t look out for its people. The question is how best to do that. My view is that engaging with the world has proven over time to benefit everyone, including Americans, more than withdrawing does” (Gates and Gates, 2018). Using Trump’s efforts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as a case study, this paper will discuss the administration’s attempts to roll back American pluralism. In addition, the paper will discuss the political ascendency of Trump and its unfolding implications. Furthermore, the paper will discuss the ideals of America’s pluralism not only as the pillar of the American way, but also, as the important glue that binds and fosters American diversity, and boosts the U.S. economy. The paper will utilize nationalism theory framework of analysis to conceptualize and explain Trump’s brand of nationalism in contemporary global politics. The paper will add to the body of knowledge and literature on the subject of nationalism. The terms populism and nationalism will be used interchangeably.

Keywords: immigration, nationalism, pluralism, DACA, economy, globalization, and Trump

DOI: 10.7176/JLPG/99-06

Publication date:July 31st 2020

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