Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

Front Cover
Princeton University Press, Aug 28, 2005 - History - 400 pages

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.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

The various ways in which the law constructed and racialized “illegality” over the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A telling example: in the mid-twentieth century, noncitizens ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DarthDeverell - LibraryThing

In Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, Maw M. Ngai “argues that illegal immigration is not anomalous but inherent to the regime of immigration restriction. Nor is it ... Read full review

Contents

INTR001014
1
CH01015055
15
CH02056090
56
CH03091126
91
CH04127166
127
CH05167201
167
CH06202224
202
CH07225264
225
EPIL265270
265
APPD271274
271
NOTE275356
275
PSRC357368
357
INDX369378
369
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2005)

Mae Ngai is Associate Professor of U.S. History at the University of Chicago.

Bibliographic information