In this paper, we heed the recent call by migration and urban studies scholars to bring questions of space, locality and culture squarely into discussions of immigrant incorporation. While many urban studies scholars focus on how specific “global cities” influence and are influenced by worldwide economic restructuring, they do not pay enough attention to how migration affects these processes. In contrast, migration scholars around the world, but in the United States in particular, have produced a large body of work on new destinations and contexts of reception. Much of this work fails to consider how these contexts are embedded in larger geopolitical fields in ways that make them more or less receptive to newcomers. Moreover, this work privileges the economic characteristics of localities without paying sufficient attention to the variations in cultural resources particular sites bring to bear on processes of incorporation. More complete and compelling explanations for why certain places integrate immigrants with greater success than others need to take scale and culture into account. In this study of two small, post-industrial cities, we argue that important variations in how cities create and deploy what we call their cultural armature, including differences in urban self-presentation, the prevailing ethos toward immigrants, how culture is harnessed in service of urban renewal projects, and how history and political economy influence the available cultural apparatus explain much of the variation in our two contexts of reception.