Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

by Mae M. Ngai
     
 

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

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Overview

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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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691074719
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/17/2003
Series:
Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America Series
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
7.02(w) x 8.92(h) x 1.17(d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Illustrations
List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Note on Language and Terminology
Introduction: Illegal Aliens: A Problem of Law and History1
Pt. IThe Regime of Quotas and Papers15
1The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 and the Reconstruction of Race in Immigration Law21
2Deportation Policy and the Making and Unmaking of Illegal Aliens56
Pt. IIMigrants at the Margins of Law and Nation91
3From Colonial Subject to Undesirable Alien: Filipino Migration in the Invisible Empire96
4Braceros, "Wetbacks," and the National Boundaries of Class127
Pt. IIIWar, Nationalism, and Alien Citizenship167
5The World War II Internment of Japanese Americans and the Citizenship Renunciation Cases175
6The Cold War Chinese Immigration Crisis and the Confession Cases202
Pt. IVPluralism and Nationalism in Post-World War II Immigration Reform225
7The Liberal Critique and Reform of Immigration Policy227
Epilogue265
Appendix271
Notes275
Archival and Other Primary Sources357
Index369

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