Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

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Princeton University Press, 2004 - History - 377 pages
15 Reviews

This book traces the origins of the "illegal alien" in American law and society, explaining why and how illegal migration became the central problem in U.S. immigration policy--a process that profoundly shaped ideas and practices about citizenship, race, and state authority in the twentieth century.


Mae Ngai offers a close reading of the legal regime of restriction that commenced in the 1920s--its statutory architecture, judicial genealogies, administrative enforcement, differential treatment of European and non-European migrants, and long-term effects. In well-drawn historical portraits, Ngai peoples her study with the Filipinos, Mexicans, Japanese, and Chinese who comprised, variously, illegal aliens, alien citizens, colonial subjects, and imported contract workers. She shows that immigration restriction, particularly national-origin and numerical quotas, re-mapped the nation both by creating new categories of racial difference and by emphasizing as never before the nation's contiguous land borders and their patrol. This yielded the "illegal alien," a new legal and political subject whose inclusion in the nation was a social reality but a legal impossibility--a subject without rights and excluded from citizenship. Questions of fundamental legal status created new challenges for liberal democratic society and have directly informed the politics of multiculturalism and national belonging in our time.


Ngai's analysis is based on extensive archival research, including previously unstudied records of the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Naturalization Service. Contributing to American history, legal history, and ethnic studies, Impossible Subjects is a major reconsideration of U.S. immigration in the twentieth century.


  

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mariposabooks - LibraryThing

Insightful historical perspective on the issues of migration, politics, and second-class citizenship status. A must read for anyone seeking to understand immigration laws, policies, and the reasons for hostility towards migrants. Read full review

Review: Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America)

User Review  - Scott Schneider - Goodreads

Immigration is a hot topic now. This book, while a bit academic, provides a great perspective on the issue by reviewing the history of immigration policy, particularly during the 1920s- 1960s in the ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
THE REGIME OF QUOTAS AND PAPERS
15
The JohnsonReed Act of 1924 and the Reconstruction of Race in Immigration Law
21
Deportation Policy and the Making and Unmaking of Illegal Aliens
56
MIGRANTS AT THE MARGINS OF LAW AND NATION
91
From Colonial Subject to Undesirable Alien Filipino Migration in the Invisible Empire
96
Braceros Wetbacks and the National Boundaries of Class
127
WAR NUATIONALISM AND ALIEN CITIZENSHIP
167
The Cold War Chinese Immigration Crisis and the Confession Cases
202
PLURALISM AND NATIONALISM IN POSTWORLD WAR II IMMIGRATION REFORM
225
The Liberal Critique and Reform of Immigration Policy
227
Epilogue
265
Appendix
271
Notes
275
Archival and Other Primary Sources
357
Index
369

The World War II Internment of Japanese Americans and the Citizenship Renunciation Cases
175

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About the author (2004)

Mae M. Ngai is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago.

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