Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882

Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882

by Roger Daniels
     
 

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The federal government's efforts to pick and choose among the multitude of immigrants seeking to enter the United States began with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Conceived in ignorance and falsely presented to the public, it had undreamt of consequences, and this pattern has been rarely deviated from since. As renowned historian Roger Daniels shows in this

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Overview

The federal government's efforts to pick and choose among the multitude of immigrants seeking to enter the United States began with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Conceived in ignorance and falsely presented to the public, it had undreamt of consequences, and this pattern has been rarely deviated from since. As renowned historian Roger Daniels shows in this brilliant new work, America's inconsistent, often illogical, and always cumbersome immigration policy has profoundly affected our recent past.

Immigration policy in Daniels' skilled hands shows Americans at their best and worst, from the nativist violence that forced Theodore Roosevelt's 1907 "gentlemen's agreement" with Japan to the generous refugee policies adopted after World War Two and throughout the Cold War. And in a conclusion drawn from today's headlines, Daniels makes clear how far ignorance, partisan politics, and unintended consequences have overtaken immigration policy during the current administration's War on Terror.

Irreverent, deeply informed, and authoritative, Guarding the Golden Door presents an unforgettable interpretation of modern American history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Immigration-perhaps no other subject so contentiously touches on both our collective idealism and our capacity for irrational fear. Nostalgic about past immigrants, we magnify the threat of newly arriving hordes of outsiders. Daniels, author of several books about the Japanese-American experience, judiciously avoids a sweeping narrative in favor of an immersion in the messy details of legislation and demography, although accurate assessments are elusive. Reflecting the lack of overarching plot, the book's first half is chronological to 1965, after which it switches to an ethnic breakdown. As Daniels shows, the subject yields hyperbolic rhetoric and misleading statistics, which rarely lead to coherent or effective legislation. Congress rarely grasp the real ramifications of its immigration policy as it underfunds its nominally ambitious measures. Despite his deeply academic cast of mind, Daniels keeps his prose engaging and lively, as he displays his evident love of accuracy and impatience with obfuscation. Those who read closely will unearth arresting tidbits, such as the central role of the Chinese as targets in virtually all early anti-immigration measures and the brief but virulent anti-Filipino hysteria of the early 1930s. Perhaps most interesting is the final section, in which Daniels tackles broader questions about the debate, including the surprisingly little-changed status of immigration in the post-9/11, post-INS landscape. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This useful study introduces readers to the tangled history of immigration policy in the United States. Such an introduction is badly needed: on the evidence of this book, much of U.S. immigration policy has been made by those who did not understand the consequences of the policies they struggled to enact. Before 1882, the country had no immigration policy: anyone who got here could stay here. But Americans already living here have always felt ambivalent toward new arrivals; while recognizing that immigrants provide cheap and willing labor, they have doubted the ability of various groups to assimilate. Benjamin Franklin worried about the Germans, and later generations worried about the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews. Historically, these fears have been expressed in terms of race; today, "culture" is the preferred term to distinguish the assimilable, useful immigrants from the purportedly dangerous ones. Daniels sees immigration policy moving in long waves. From 1882 to 1921, the doors were slowly closed. Immigration policy was tightest between the two world wars, but controls began to relax during Harry Truman's presidency. A second period of openness culminated in the amnesties of the 1980s. Now, with the percentage of foreign-born residents comparable to levels of a century ago, there may be further efforts at tightening ahead.
Library Journal
Daniels (Prisoners Without Trial) provides an expert reexamination of American immigration policy and immigrant history. He identifies "nodal points" in the history of immigration to the United States, beginning with the racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and following the twists and turns in official policy up to the present debate on how to control illegal immigration. Statistics and detailed discussion of immigration law and its consequences (intended and unintended) illustrate the successive battles between nativists and those championing freer immigration. Daniels's work is particularly striking when detailing the story of Asian immigration to the United States. For example, in the 19th century Chinese immigrants were nearly entirely male; it was not until after World War II that large numbers of Chinese women were admitted, many as war brides. Throughout, the author argues that immigration policy is often based on unfounded assumptions and often produces results completely opposite to those intended. Intricate descriptions of immigration law and statistical evidence make this a solid but rather scholarly work that is highly recommended for academic libraries.-Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466806856
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
01/12/2005
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
344
Sales rank:
1,118,098
File size:
1 MB

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