Reviews in American History: Deportations

I just submitted another paper for publication, a draft version of which is available on SSRN. It is a literature review of a book by Deirdre Moloney, National Insecurities: Immigrants and U.S. Deportation Policy Since 1882.

Abstract: Despite immigrant‐friendly rhetoric, President Obama has deported more immigrants than any other President in history, with a whooping record of almost 2 million deportations in the past 6 years. This seems quite contrary to America’s self-identity as a nation of immigrants and a beacon for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” While the politics of 9/11 have led to the conflation of immigrants with national security issues, the whooping number of people deported by the son of a Kenyan immigrant can only be fully understood through a legal history of U.S. immigration policy, and specifically, U.S. deportation policy. Quite simply, the gates to the American dream have not always been open to all. Throughout history, U.S. deportation policy has been governed by larger social trends and social mores. In National Insecurities: Immigrants and U.S. Deportation Policy Since 1882, Deirdre Moloney explores the intersection of race, class, gender and religion in constituting United States deportation policy, and contextualizes deportation in the larger social trends of the times, with an emphasis on immigrants and immigration advocacy groups. It is through the social and legal history that Moloney charts that one can begin to understand current immigration policies, which serves to exclude immigrants on the basis of arbitrary crimes, subject immigrants to mandatory detention without procedural due process, punish employers for hiring undocumented immigrants while conducting record numbers of deportations.

I think Moloney wrote a decent book, although a major shortcoming of the book is that she leaves out much of the legal history about immigration and citizenship pre­‐1882. Race was explicitly used to define eligibility for admission and citizenship in 1790 when citizenship was limited to white property–owning men. Moloney does not focus on U.S. deportation policy pre­‐1882, which limits her ability to draw the vivid comparative connections that other scholars, such as Daniel Kaanstrom in Deportation Nation, have drawn between Fugitive Slave Laws and the current deportation regime. The acceptance of diluted legal protections for an unpopular minority may have allowed the same fate to befall immigrants later. However this flaw, only slightly detracts from a thought‐provoking legal and social history of U.S. deportation law. Anyone interested in U.S. deportation policy since 1882 should grab the book, or in the alternative, read my thorough review of it.

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