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One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965

by Jia Lynn Yang


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Winner of the Zócalo Book Prize
Shortlisted for the Arthur Ross Book Award
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

A "powerful and cogent" (Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post) account of the twentieth-century battle for immigration reform that set the stage for today’s roiling debates.

The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is at the core of the American narrative. But in 1924, Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing arrivals from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning those from nearly all of Asia. In a riveting narrative filled with a fascinating cast of characters, from the indefatigable congressman Emanuel Celler and senator Herbert Lehman to the bull-headed Nevada senator Pat McCarran, Jia Lynn Yang recounts how lawmakers, activists, and presidents from Truman through LBJ worked relentlessly to abolish the 1924 law.

Through a world war, a refugee crisis after the Holocaust, and a McCarthyist fever, a coalition of lawmakers and activists descended from Jewish, Irish, and Japanese immigrants fought to establish a new principle of equality in the American immigration system. Their crowning achievement, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, proved to be one of the most transformative laws in the country’s history, opening the door to nonwhite migration at levels never seen before—and changing America in ways that those who debated it could hardly have imagined. Framed movingly by her own family’s story of immigration to America, Yang’s One Mighty and Irresistible Tide is a deeply researched and illuminating work of history, one that shows how Americans have strived and struggled to live up to the ideal of a home for the “huddled masses,” as promised in Emma Lazarus’s famous poem.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393867527
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/25/2021
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 97,466
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jia Lynn Yang, the national editor at The New York Times, was previously deputy national security editor at The Washington Post, where she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Trump and Russia. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 "God's Crucible" 7

2 Slamming the Door 33

3 A "Tragic Bottleneck" 62

4 "A Land of Great Responsibilities" 90

5 A Son of Nevada 115

6 Internal Security 142

7 An Irish Brahmin 176

8 A Bold Proposal 203

9 A Martyr's Cause 230

Epilogue 261

Acknowledgments 273

Notes 277

Bibliography 301

Index 309

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