Documenting the birth of illegal immigration

Someone at BNF felt compelled to tell me that the birth of illegal immigration was the coming of Europeans to the Americas. The comment is theoretically accurate but misses the point of the argument. By the ‘birth of illegal immigration,’ I am referring to the social and political construction of a certain type of immigration as illegal. That discourse did not exist prior to a certain time, even though the phenomenon was naturally-occurring. It’s much like Michel Foucault, who dates the origin of homosexuality in America to 1876. That doesn’t mean homosexuality does not exist prior to that, rather he means that the definition and categorization of ‘sexual deviants’ in order to control, legislate, regulate and medicate comes about with the creation of the American nation-state. Much like that, the Native Americans did not partake in the Judeo-Christian moral and legal order of the European arrivals–they did not feel compelled to label them as ‘illegal’ and without documentation. The discourse of ‘illegal immigration’ does not really come into being until after Chinese Exclusion.

Anyway, here is some interesting archival material that I am posting upon request:

Paper: Unknown Title, published as Evening Bulletin; Date: 04-21-1882; Volume: LIV; Issue: 12; Page: 2;

This piece simply blew me away. It represents the start of the construction of desirable/undesirable immigration that snowballed into restricting the immigration of certain groups of peoples and hence, ‘illegal immigration.’ It contains the construction of a broad and acceptable ‘European immigration’ and right of citizenship faced with a contemporary Chinese ‘invasion’ quite unlike the former. I apologize for the unclear text—it is more than 100 years old and scanned.


Now this is the first use of ‘illegal immigration’ in an article. And it concerns the Chinese entering from the Canadian border.

San Francisco Bulletin, published as Daily Evening Bulletin; Date: 12-12-1889; Volume: LXIX; Issue: 57; Page: 4;


Philadelphia Inquirer, published as The Philadelphia Inquirer; Date: 03-23-1899; Volume: 140; Issue: 82; Page: 3;

And now we have moves to ‘check’ illegal immigration – deportation!


Bellingham Herald, published as The Bellingham Herald; Date: 07-31-1907; Volume: 16; Issue: 108; Page: 3;


Not all the archived data screams anti-Chinese and anti-immigration. True to conditions today, immigration proponents also existed from the birth of ‘illegal immigration.’

Paper: Unknown Title, published as The Philadelphia Inquirer; Date: 06-05-1893; Volume: 128; Issue: 156; Page: 2;


Earning the Right to American Citizenship?

Most people seem supportive of the concept of ‘earned citizenship’ – meaning that we must fulfill a set amount of requirements to obtain a green card and an American passport.

The DREAM Act has several teleological components that we must meet in order to qualify for legal residence. These are:

  • we must have come here before we were 16 and are under 30,
  • we must have lived here continuously for five years,
  • we must graduate from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED
  • we must have good moral character with no criminal record and
  • we must attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.

Only if we meet all stipulations, do we get legal residency. And even then, processing citizenship would take anywhere from 3-5 years or more.

Do you think these stipulations are fair or restrictive? Should we be made to do more in order to prove our love and loyalty to this country and that we belong here and contribute to American society?

To become an U.S. Citizen, immigrants have to sit a ‘citizenship test,’ a test that I have seen many fellow American students fail in class. Should their birthright citizenship be taken away from them?

What about DREAMers that do not necessarily identify as American and do not believe in ‘loyalty’ to the nation? In an ever globalizing world of McDonalds, international holidays, languages, Facebook/Myspace, the bond of nationality is eroding. And I do not see that as a tragedy.

Today, we self-identify in so many ways-I am a homosexual, a woman, a student, an Indian, a tech-geek, a daughter, an atheist, a civil rights activist, an aspiring lawyer, and so much more than an undocumented immigrant or ‘illegal alien.’ If society can accept so many identities without placing teleological components to citizenship, why are the undocumented and documented migrants put to the test? After all, we do not need to be alike in order to co-exist.

What do you think about the concept of earned citizenship?

A History of Xenophobia in U.S. Immigration Policy and the new McCarthyism

Discrimination against those that are seemingly foreign-born and ‘different’ from the

(White Protestant) norm is pervasive in the immigration control history of United States.

It goes back to when the United States was a budding new nation of (illegal) immigrants from Europe and conscious of the ‘dangerous’ Irish and ‘revolutionary’ French migrating into the country.

Response: Congress passed legislation in 1798 lengthening the period of years required for citizenship from five to fourteen and also gave the President the power to deport any alien deemed a threat to public safety.

Next came discrimination against Chinese laborers most of whom had been welcomed into the country as cheap labor in the 1860s but with the economic crisis of 1873, faced nativist fears.

Response: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which created the category of ‘illegal immigrant’ for the first time, establishing border controls and sparking violence against Chinese migrants.

But the country still needed cheap labor and migrants continued to flow into the United States to fulfill that role, this time from Southern and Eastern Europe.

Response: Besides the many acts of violence against these immigrants, Congress passed the National Origins Quota Act in 1924 that strictly limited immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.

Entering the Cold War period, we are struck with the lunacy of McCarthyism, and hence heightened fear of ‘strangers’ and dissent.

Response: The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 set quotas of 100 immigrants only from each country in Asia, while immigrants from the United Kingdom and Germany consisted seventy percent of the annual immigrant quota. On top of this, noncitizens faced deportation for simply harboring radical and supposedly subversive ideas.

The witch hunts were truly on at this shameful period in United States history. However, we came out of our ‘temporary insanity’ made progress in the 1960s with the Immigration and Nationality Act that abolished discriminatory quotas and gave preference to skilled workers.

As immigration from across the border increased and we noticed a proliferation of ‘brown’ skin and Spanish languages in school, anti-immigration efforts were launched again, this time squarely at Latinos. In the 1990s, Proposition 187 in California was an act to deny public education to children of illegal immigrants, and soundly defeated by the Courts.

The anti-immigrant fervor did not let up, especially with 9-11 and the economy taking a nose-dive, again we were more fearful of ‘difference.’

Response: International students were restricted and hassled by immigration authorities, visa petitions incredibly backlogged especially from China, India, Mexico and the Philippines, and for a short while, even post-operative transsexuals denied residency based on marriage to partners of the opposite sex.

Now we have ICE agents conducting raids, separating children from their parents and locking teenage students in detention centers for months, deporting students for being truant and even going after sanctuary cities.

I am having a déjà vu of the witch hunts conducted during McCarthyism. Think about the similarities for a second. This anti-immigration climate is ideologically-driven and we are using countless resources to round-up and question hard-working Americans all over again, separating them from loved ones and smearing their names.

I wonder what we would call this era when we look upon it shamefully in the distant future. Let’s hope we wake up from this period of temporary insanity soon.

And so, national security is diametrically opposed to human security

Lets see. Critical Security Studies has been a prime interest since I was 16 years old and running the Terror Talk/Threat Construction Kritik at policy debate tournaments. I won rounds solely on the basis of this — I remember my debate coach once remarked that I never ever used “the threat of Islamic terrorists” or any such discourse to win any rounds no matter what. It may have cost me on several occasions but that is all in the past. I graduated and let the Threat Con file sit and gather dust for 3 years until I finally used it as a final paper for my Undergrad. This is possible Doctorate level work that I am not keen on pursuing at this point for obvious reasons. It reminds me that I am too smart and intellectual for law school. I also tend to think it is a DUH. Can you believe someone won the Nobel prize for writing that poverty and terrorism were related? Goodness, that’s just common sense and I have been writing that since I was 15! Where is my Nobel prize yo?! Actually you keep the Nobel Prize, just hand me a Green card, will you?! 🙂

Anyway, excerpts are in order. Whole paper is here

The discursive speech acts embodied in various National Security Strategy documents establish that the act of securing the American people has given way to the politicization of national security. Politicization refers to the employment of national security discourse for political ends and not specifically for meeting the actual security needs of civil society. Starting with President Truman’s NSC-68 document in 1950 and continuing up to Bush II in the present day, the discourse of national security strategy has been systematically cemented on the national policy agenda, employed for purposes other than the security of the American people. Upon a thorough examination of these documents, a central theme that emerges and dictates United States foreign policy is the pervasive construction of an enemy, an external “Other” as a threat to national security. I argue that this security discourse functions as a tool for identity construction and reification of the American state apparatus with far-reaching consequences: an increasing politicization of security, legitimization of a permanent war economy, the oppression and marginalization of minority groups, omission of key security issues from the security agenda, and paradoxically, a more insecure, unstable America and global order. Therefore, the goal of this paper is to deconstruct the totalizing and unitary narrative of the National Security Strategy documents under Truman, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, and unearth counter-narratives that challenge dominant security discourses based on ideological threat construction. I conclude that the main objectives set out in NSC-68 continue to govern US foreign policy even in the post-Cold War era, that American foreign policy today mirrors American foreign policy post-World War II: a search for identity and power, which ironically leads to more insecurity for Americans and for the entire world.”