Nativist Reaction Nativism is a term used to describe public attitudes and policy that favor native-born inhabitants over immigrants. It also encompasses a native defense of exclusive claims over and against the encroachment of aliens. The meanings of “native” and “alien” are not firmly planted but shift with perception, identifiability, and sociohistorical context. Describing reactions as “nativist,” however, is not a straightforward matter because nativism is associated with a variety of beliefs and behaviors. Social scientists use the term to describe hostility toward immigrants and those who wish to immigrate, the dislike of those perceived as foreigners, and attempts to reduce the rights of immigrants. But because its meaning is constantly changing, so are its expressions. Newly arrived immigrants as well as third-generation residents may be perceived as alien and unwittingly threaten the exclusive claims of natives. For example, the tensions of World War I transformed German American behaviors into German acts of treason.