A Framework for Immigration: Asians in the United State.


By Uma A. Segal.  New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.  Pp. 468.

Cheng-Feng Shih

Tamkang University


The author sets out to construct an analytical framework for understanding immigration in general, and then provides for case studies pertaining to Asian immigrants to the United States.  By way of linear progressing, she makes efforts to delineate how the process of immigration can be aptly comprehended in terms of (1) background conditions in the home country and the immigrant’s personal status and experience, (2) push and pull factors for immigration, (3) characteristics of emigration and immigration, (4) responses of the receiving country, (5) the immigrant’s adjustments to the receiving country, and (6) policy implications from the perspective of human services.  After succinctly and yet comprehensively describing historical development of Asian immigration waves into the United States, she embarks on investigating these facets of immigration in rich details.  Through out the book, she takes a keen gender consciousness to ensure that the female dimension immigration is not left out.  Except for policy recommendations (chapters 6, 7, 9), the author’s narrative of her personal experience in immigration is most fascinating (epilogue).

While not neglecting non-economic elements such as political turmoil and social repression at home, the author seems to equate the immigrant’s educational and vocational capabilities and economic, social, and political status with the opportunity for immigration (pp. 5-11).  Nevertheless, as these background conditions can only account for ease shifting gears for prospective immigrants, the traditional dichotomy of push and pull factors appears more fruitful (chapters 2-3).  By tracing the history of China, Japan, India, the Philippines, and Korea back to the second half of the 19th century, she elucidates the patterns of immigration in these countries, and then fleshes out those in the post-1965 era, when American immigration policies became relatively less restrictive.  She is keen to point out that professionals/students and refugees are replacing labor immigrants.  It would be stimulating to further probe into how the condition of the sending country is coterminous with the capabilities of would-be immigrants.  In other words, those immigrants had obtained English proficiency in addition to professional skills with a hope to secure freedom along with economic affluence.  A famous saying in Taiwan during the Cold War era would testify to this causal calculation: “Come the National Taiwan University and go to the United States.” 

The strongest parts are thee chapter on immigrants’ adjustment after successful emigration and those on human services policies.  By drawing a continuum of adjustment from acculturation, assimilation, integration, accommodation, separation, marginalization, and rejection, the author looks into how Asian Americans have achieved professional excellence, and modified their cultural norms (chapter 5).  The chapter devoted to the second-generation USAsians is particularly valuable in the light of biculturalism and interracial marriage (chapter 8). 

It is unfortunate that Taiwanese Americans are not treated detached from China as the two countries have separately political routes for the past century and thus share different national identities.  Furthermore, the native Taiwanese elites had in the past chosen to study in the United States in order to escape the authoritarian alien Nationalist regime (KMT) until the later 1980s, as the author has rightly pointed out (p. 85),