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Immigration and Techniques of Governance in Mexico and the United States: Recalibrating National Narratives through Comparative Immigration Histories


Immigration histories typically endeavor to describe and hold a nation–state accountable not only for the laws and policies by which it admits some immigrants, but also for those by which it refuses, excludes, or deports other immigrants. This article explores immigration to Mexico and to the United States with attention to its implications for the status of persons, and also for the conventional historical narratives in each country. The article focuses on three techniques of governance that each country has engaged in regard to immigration. These techniques include: 1) the assignment of nationality as a singular attribute of personhood; 2) the use of demonstrable and documentable characteristics as criteria of admission; and 3) centralized registration procedures to monitor and control the immigrant population. The techniques are analyzed together because of their concurrent emergence in each country during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The techniques are also complementary. They form a set that, although not unique to the United States and Mexico, nevertheless illustrates parallels and an interplay between the two countries, and, more broadly, illustrates how immigration presents a common predicament across different times, places, and forms of government.

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Samuel Truett and Elliott Young , eds., Continental Crossroads: Remapping U.S.-Mexico Borderlands History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 123

Erika Lee , At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, 2003), 158

Roger Daniels , Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life, 2nd ed. (New York:Perennial, 1990, 2002), 270–71

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Law and History Review
  • ISSN: 0738-2480
  • EISSN: 1939-9022
  • URL: /core/journals/law-and-history-review
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