Race in American Immigration Law

The article assigned for this week written by Mae M. Ngai goes through all the different ways political leaders twisted and turned Immigration laws to justify their racist ideologies. The article thus argues that in fact the Immigration law of 1924 was compromised of racialized categories created to suit the needs of “white” Europeans. The law broke down what groups of people were desirable enough to be granted the opportunity to “become American” and those groups who were not. The groups, as we know from class, who were discriminated against in the process of “becoming American” were Asians, Blacks, and even people from Latin American countries such as Mexicans, etc. The article then analyzed three aspects of the Immigration Act of 1924 which were essentially, the invention of “national origins”, the concept of “ineligibility to citizenship”, and finally the role the law took in the racialization of Mexicans. The invention of national origins is something politicians took charge of to exclude certain groups of people from the ability to claim the status of being “white”. The creation of the concept of being ineligible for citizenship then stemmed off of the exclusion and inclusion of those groups deemed white and non-white. The racialization of Mexicans we learned is a complicated one that came in phases. We learned in class that at one point Mexicans were deemed “white” under the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo but the status of the treaty slowly lost power as time went by and the United States came to see Mexicans as illegal aliens and created an entire border patrol to further push the criminalization of boarder crossing from Mexico into the States. The Immigration Act of 1924 also made it difficult for all peoples of Asian descent and ultimately deemed them the least desirable. Thus from reading this article we really get a feel for how far leaders will go to suit their beliefs in regards to othering themselves from people that may not exactly look and talk like them.

4 thoughts on “Race in American Immigration Law

  1. It was interesting reading how Mexicans were at one point allowed to be naturalized and were kind of considered white. Especially with how things have changed since then. It also just shows how arbitrary these ideas were, Mexicans were able to be naturalized because a court judge could not determine that a Mexican man fit into any of the categories of race. As you said, these distinctions only change to suit the beliefs of those who want American identity to be closely related to whiteness.

  2. The twisting of immigration records is such a manipulation of the reality of American immigration policy. The idea to make sure that there is a pro-european biases in the reporting of the immigration numbers in the 1924s.

  3. I think that one of the points that we can really learn from in this article is the changing of legislation regarding immigration from Mexico. Due to increased crime rates legislators began to look for a group to blame this on and a fix to this and found that legislation barring and limiting immigration from Mexico to be the best bet which ended up increasing illegal immigration and created a new problem for legislators.

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