Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5c569c448b-t6r6x Total loading time: 0.36 Render date: 2022-07-02T09:02:19.861Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

It's Time to Center War in U.S. Immigration History

Part of: The Soapbox

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2019


War is central to U.S. immigration history. Yet too often that fact has been obscured by folktales that rhapsodize about the feel-good Ellis Island story: lured by the American Dream, strangers come to a promised land, put down roots, and triumph over adversity through industry, resolve, and pluck.

The Soapbox
Copyright © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Cambridge University Press 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


For their invaluable help and guidance with this essay, I thank Carly Goodman, Jason McGraw, Michelle Moyd, Arissa Oh, the two anonymous reviewers, the staff of Modern American History, and especially Brooke Blower for her encouragement and keen editorial eye. Immense gratitude to Mae Ngai, my advisor, for teaching me the fundamentals of immigration history.


1 Julian Lim and Maddelena Marinari make the important point that “exclusion and inclusion have always occurred in tandem” in U.S. immigration policy, “sustain[ing] a nation of both nativists and immigrants.” See Lim, and Marinari, , “Laws for a Nation of Nativists and Immigrants,” Modern American History 2, no. 1 (Mar. 2019): 4952CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 See, for instance, Lee, Erika, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2003)Google Scholar; Ngai, Mae M., Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, NJ, 2004)Google Scholar; Zolberg, Aristide R., A Nation By Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America (Cambridge, MA, 2006)Google Scholar; Hernández, Kelly Lytle, Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol (Berkeley, CA, 2010)Google Scholar; Parker, Kunal M., Making Foreigners: Immigration and Citizenship Law in America, 1600–2000 (New York, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kang, S. Deborah, The INS on the Line: Making Immigration Law on the US–Mexico Border, 1917–1954 (New York, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. One important exception is Hoffnung-Garskoff, Jesse, “The Immigration Reform Act of 1965,” in Blower, Brooke and Bradley, Mark Philip, eds., The Familiar Made Strange: American Icons and Artifacts after the Transnational Turn (Ithaca, NY, 2015), 125–40, here 128–9Google Scholar. Hoffnung-Garskoff argues that historians “should seek to understand and represent immigration as a consequence of relationships between the United States and particular other parts of the world, and as a constituent part of some of those relationships.” He posits that the standard pre-1965/post-1965 periodization should be replaced by a more useful “Cold War/post–Cold War” divide.

3 Sánchez, George J., “Race, Nation, and Culture in Recent Immigration Studies,” Journal of American Ethnic History 18, no. 4 (Summer 1999): 6684Google Scholar. See also Kramer, Paul A., “Power and Connection: Imperial Histories of the United States in the World,” American Historical Review 116, no. 5 (Dec. 2011): 1348–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Kramer, Paul A., “Geopolitics of Mobility: Immigration Policy and American Global Power in the Long Twentieth Century,” American Historical Review 123, no. 2 (Apr. 2018): 393438CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Goodman, Adam, “Nation of Migrations, Historians of Migration,” Journal of American Ethnic History 34, no. 4 (Summer 2015): 716, here 10CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 For the history and critiques of the “nation of immigrants” paradigm, see Gabaccia, Donna R., “Is Everywhere Nowhere? Nomads, Nations, and the Immigrant Paradigm of United States History,” Journal of American History 86, no. 3 (Dec. 1999): 1115–34CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Mae M. Ngai, “‘A Nation of Immigrants': The Cold War and Civil Rights Origins of Illegal Immigration,” with an exchange between Eric S. Maskin and the Author, Occasional Papers of the School of Social Science, April 2010, Paper No. 38, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019). Goodman, “Nation of Migrations, Historians of Migration,” emphasizes the multiplicity of migrations in U.S. history including European settler colonialism, African slavery, and “internal” migrations such as indigenous removals and the Great Migration of African Americans.

6 The example of the “refugee” is illustrative. In her study of Chinese migration to Hong Kong during the Cold War, Laura Madokoro prefers “migrant” to “refugee” as a category of analysis as a way to problematize both the narrowness and the contentiousness of the category “refugee” as applied by historical actors. She cautions that a migrant's “refugee” status does not derive from “essential traits.” It results from an “intensely subjective … ‘refugeeing process’ involving governments and humanitarians determining who deserves assistance, as well as migrants themselves deciding whether or not to characterize themselves accordingly.” Madokoro, Laura, Elusive Refugee: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War (Cambridge, MA, 2016), 67CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Ngai, Impossible Subjects.

7 Dudziak, Mary L., War-Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (New York, 2014), 12–3Google Scholar; Sherry, Michael S., “War as a Way of Life,” Modern American History 1, no. 1 (Mar. 2018): 93–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Young, Marilyn B., “‘I was thinking, as I often do these days, of war’: The United States in the Twenty-First Century,” Diplomatic History 36, no. 1 (Jan. 2012): 115, here 2CrossRefGoogle Scholar, cited in Sherry, “War as a Way of Life.”

9 Definitions of “refugee” and “asylee” are not fixed, but have shifted depending on political agendas and changing circumstances. As Carl Bon Tempo observes, “Colloquially, an immigrant is a person who chooses to leave his or her homeland, while a refugee is a person who is forced to leave the homeland for fear of persecution and cannot return without endangering himself or herself. Such a distinction, however, only goes so far. In the American historical context, refugees typically have fled political persecution, though the nature of that persecution—its ideological sources, relationship to geopolitics, and the exact definition of persecutory acts—has evolved over time and in response to circumstances.” Tempo, Carl Bon, “Refugees, Asylees, and Immigrants,” in Barkan, Elliott Robert, ed., Immigrants in American History: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration (Santa Barbara, CA, 2012), 1528Google Scholar. See also Madokoro, Chinese Migrants in the Cold War.

10 Loescher, Gilbert Damian and Scanlan, John A., Calculated Kindness: Refugees and America's Half-Open Door, 1945–Present (New York, 1986)Google Scholar; Tempo, Carl J. Bon, Americans at the Gate: The United States and Refugees during the Cold War (Princeton, NJ, 2008)Google Scholar; Porter, Stephen R., Benevolent Empire: U.S. Power, Humanitarianism, and the World's Dispossessed (Philadelphia, PA, 2016)Google Scholar.

11 Bon Tempo, “Refugees, Asylees, and Immigrants,”1528.

12 Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 70.

13 Bon Tempo, “Refugees, Asylees, and Immigrants,” 1528; Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 60–85.

14 Notably, U.S. military bases served as way stations for Hungarians, Cubans, and Vietnamese en route to permanent resettlement in the United States. Camp Kilmer, NJ, was the first major military-run refugee camp in the United States. Jana Lipman, “U.S. military bases used to welcome foreign refugees. Now, they are being used to scare away migrants,” Washington Post Made by History, July 5, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

15 Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 3–4.

16 Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 145–79.

17 Bon Tempo, “Refugees, Asylees, and Immigrants,” 1534; García, María Cristina, “Central American Migration and the Shaping of Refugee Policy,” in Hoerder, Dirk and Faires, Nora, eds., Migrants and Migration in Modern North America: Cross-Border Lives, Labor Markets, and Politics (Durham, NC, 2011), 347–63, here 347, 356Google Scholar.

18 García, “Central American Migration and the Shaping of Refugee Policy,” 356; García, María Cristina, Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada (Berkeley, CA, 2006), 70Google Scholar.

19 García, Seeking Refuge, 34, 70; Abrego, Leisy J., Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders (Stanford, CA, 2014), 13Google Scholar; García, Seeking Refuge, 34.

20 García, Seeking Refuge, 70; García, “Central American Migration and the Shaping of Refugee Policy,” 353.

21 García, “Central American Migration and the Shaping of Refugee Policy,” 354.

22 Macekura, Stephen, “‘For Fear of Persecution’: Displaced Salvadorans and U.S. Refugee Policy in the 1980s,” Journal of Policy History 23, no. 3 (July 2011): 357–80, here 375–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

23 García, “Central American Migration and the Shaping of Refugee Policy,” 356.

24 Bon Tempo, At America’s Gates, 200–1. Notably, the Trump administration has been trying to rescind this criterion since June 2018. See Matt Zapotosky, “Judge Strikes Down Trump Administration Effort to Deny Asylum for Migrants Fleeing Gang Violence, Domestic Abuse,” Washington Post, December 19, 2018, (accessed March 6, 2019).

25 Bon Tempo, At America's Gates, 203–4.

26 Bon Tempo, At America's Gates, 203; Nguyen, Tram, We Are All Suspects Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities after 9/11 (Boston, MA, 2005); 203Google Scholar; García, María Cristina, The Refugee Challenge in Post–Cold War America (New York, 2017), 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

27 Bon Tempo, At America's Gates, 203–4.

28 “Taking Names,” This American Life, June 28, 2013, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

29 Bon Tempo, “Refugees, Asylees, and Immigrants,” 1535; García, The Refugee Challenge in Post–Cold War America, 142–5.

30 Bon Tempo, At America's Gates, 205.

31 García, The Refugee Challenge in Post-Cold War America, 156.

32 Ibid., 154.

33 Ibid., 157.

34 Alicia Parlapiano, “The Travel Ban Has Been Upheld. Here are Some of Its Effects So Far.” New York Times, June 27, 2018, (accessed Feb. 19, 2019).

35 Outside the scope of this essay but relevant is what might be considered a parallel history of U.S. citizens who have migrated around the world to build and work in fortified U.S. settlements. Blower, Brooke L., “Nation of Outposts: Forts, Factories, Bases, and the Making of American Power,” Diplomatic History 41, no. 3 (June 2017): 439–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 Ngai, Impossible Subjects; Poblete, Joanna, Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai‘i (Urbana, IL, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Greene, Julie, “Moveable Empire: Labor Migration, U.S. Global Power, and the Remaking of the Americas,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 15, no. 1 (Jan. 2016): 420CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fernandez, Lilia, “Of Migrants and Immigrants: Mexican and Puerto Rican Labor Migration in Comparative Perspective, 1942–1964,” Journal of American Ethnic History 29, no. 3 (Spring 2010): 639CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

37 Lorraine Boissoneault, “Puerto Ricans Got U.S. Citizenship 100 Years Ago—But Their Identity Remains Fraught,” March 7, 2017,, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

38 Shannon Collins, “Puerto Ricans Represented Throughout U.S. Military History,” U.S. Department of Defense, October 14, 2016, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Harry Franqui-Rivera and Monique Aviles, “The Puerto Rican Experience in the U.S. Military: A Century of Unheralded Service,” CUNY Hunter Centro Center for Puerto Rican Studies, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

39 Espiritu, Yen Le, Home Bound: Filipino Lives Across Cultures, Communities, and Countries (Berkeley, CA, 2003), 2731Google Scholar; H. G. Reza, “Navy to Stop Recruiting Filipino Nationals,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 27, 1992, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

40 On the bracero program see Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects; Cohen, Deborah, Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects in the Postwar United States and Mexico (Chapel Hill, NC, 2010)Google Scholar; Loza, Mireya, Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom (Chapel Hill, NC, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kang, The INS on the Line.

41 On the H2 visa program, see Hahamovitch, Cindy, No Man's Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor (Princeton, NJ, 2011)Google Scholar. The H2 visa program began in 1943.

42 Azuma, Eiichiro, “Japanese Agricultural Labor Program: Temporary Worker Immigration, US-Japan Cultural Diplomacy, and Ethnic Community Making Among Japanese Americans,” in Marinari, Maddalena, Hsu, Madeline Y., and García, María Cristina, eds., A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: U.S. Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924–1965 (Urbana, IL, 2019), 162–86Google Scholar; Loza, Mireya, “The Japanese Agricultural Workers' Program: Race, Labor, and Cultural Diplomacy in the Fields, 1956–1965,” Pacific Historical Review 86, no. 4 (Nov. 2017), 661690CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

43 Azuma, “Japanese Agricultural Labor Program,” in Marinari, Hsu, and García, eds., A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered, 162–86; Loza, “The Japanese Agricultural Workers' Program,” 661–90.

44 Laney, Monique, German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie: Making Sense of the Nazi Past During the Civil Rights Era (New Haven, CT, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 Zeiger, Susan, Entangling Alliances: Foreign War Brides and American Soldiers in the Twentieth Century (New York, 2010), 11–7, 41CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46 Ibid., 71.

47 Ibid., 72, 131–2. The 1945 War Brides Act, a.k.a. G.I. Brides Act (Public Law 271), admitted 114,000 women outside the quotas. Public Laws 471 and 450 (1946 Fiancées Act and its 1948 extension) widened its predecessor to include the betrothed. Public Laws 213 (1947) and 717 (1950) granted temporary ingress to “racially inadmissible” (i.e., Asian) spouses.

48 Ibid., 132–3. Zeiger notes the American Legion supported the loopholes for racially ineligible military brides.

49 This followed the precedence set by Congress's repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Acts in 1943 as a goodwill gesture to China, the United States' Pacific ally during World War II. See Oyen, Meredith, The Diplomacy of Migration: Transnational Lives and the Making of U.S.–Chinese Relations in the Cold War (Ithaca, NY, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

50 Wu, Ellen D., The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority (Princeton, NJ, 2014), 74, 97–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

51 Oh, Arissa H., To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption (Stanford, CA, 2015), 5Google Scholar. See also Moon, Katherine H. S., Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.–Korea Relations (New York, 1997)Google Scholar; Yuh, Ji-Yeon, Beyond the Shadow of Camptown: Korean Military Brides in America (New York, 2002)Google Scholar; and Kim, Eleana J., Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging (Durham, NC, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

52 Oh, To Save the Children of Korea, 5.

53 Zeiger, Entangling Alliances, 206–14. Arissa Oh explains that Korean law stipulated citizenship passed from father to child, so babies fathered by U.S. G.I.s were rendered “stateless nonpersons who would never find legal or social acceptance.” Oh, To Save the Children of Korea, 7.

54 Oh, To Save the Children of Korea, 8, 127–37. White Americans were more hesitant to adopt Korean-black children.

55 Ibid., 2, 95–8, 203–6. The U.S. government refused to issue visas for children adopted by single parents including widows, widowers, and unmarried people.

56 Varzally, Allison, Children of Reunion: Vietnamese Adoptions and the Politics of Family Migrations (Chapel Hill, NC, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Not all Vietnamese children adopted by Americans were G.I. babies.

57 Lipman, Jana, “‘The Face Is the Roadmap’: Vietnamese Amerasians in U.S. Political and Popular Culture, 1980–1988,” Journal of Asian American Studies 14, no. 1 (Feb. 2011): 3368, here 34CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

58 Oh, To Save the Children of Korea, 193.

59 Lipman, “‘The Face is the Roadmap,’” 40–1, 47–53.

60 Hsu, Madeline Y., “Chinese and American Collaborations Through Educational Exchange during the Era of Exclusion, 1872–1955,” Pacific Historical Review 83, no. 2 (May 2014): 314–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kramer, Paul A., “Is the World Our Campus? International Students and U.S. Global Power in the Long Twentieth Century,” Diplomatic History 33, no. 5 (Nov. 2009): 775806CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

61 Kramer, “Is the World Our Campus?,” 780–3; Bu, Liping, Making The World Like Us: Education, Cultural Expansion, and the American Century (Westport, CT, 2003)Google Scholar.

62 Kramer critiques the notion of “exchange” as a misleading one in several ways: they were seldom two-way (with the exception of Europe, U.S. students generally did not visit the home countries of foreign exchange students); and the geopolitical power dynamics shaping them were “deeply asymmetrical.” Kramer, “Is the World Our Campus?,” 778–9.

63 Kramer, “Is the World Our Campus?,” 796.

64 Man, Simeon, Soldiering Through Empire: Race and the Making of the Decolonizing Pacific (Oakland, CA, 2018), 1748CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

65 Man, Soldiering Through Empire, 17–19, 44–48.

66 Choy, Catherine Ceniza, Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History (Durham, NC, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Choy explains that many nurses never returned to the Philippines; for them, EVP became a stepping-stone to permanent residency and citizenship and presaged an even bigger wave of 25,000 Filipina nurses between 1966 and 1985.

67 Hsu, Madeline Y. and Wu, Ellen D., “‘Smoke and Mirrors’: Conditional Inclusion, Model Minorities, and the Pre-1965 Dismantling of Asian Exclusion,” Journal of American Ethnic History 34, no. 4 (Summer 2015): 4365, here 49CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

68 Dudziak, Mary L., Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, NJ, 2000), 13Google Scholar. On mid-twentieth century U.S. immigration policy reform, see Hing, Bill Ong, Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy, 1850–1990 (Stanford, CA, 1993)Google Scholar; Ngai, Impossible Subjects; Gabaccia, Donna R., Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective (Princeton, NJ, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; FitzGerald, David S. and Cook-Martín, David, Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Cambridge, MA, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hoffnung-Garskoff, “The Immigration Reform Act of 1965”; Hong, Jane, Opening the Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion (Chapel Hill, NC, forthcoming, fall 2019)Google Scholar.

69 Hsu, Madeline Y., The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority (Princeton, NJ, 2015), 198219, 236Google Scholar; Gustavo López, Neil G. Ruiz, and Eileen Patten, “Key Facts About Asian Americans, a Diverse and Growing Population,” Pew Research Center, September 8, 2017, (accessed March 6, 2019).

70 Sherry, “War as a Way of Life,” 4.

71 Zolberg, A Nation by Design, 1.

72 Chavez, Leo, The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation (Stanford, CA, 2013)Google Scholar, is a deep dive into the case of Latinx migrants.

73 Gabaccia, Foreign Relations, 59–60.

74 Neuman, Gerald L., Strangers to the Constitution: Immigrants, Borders, and Fundamental Law (Princeton, NJ, 1996), 35–6Google Scholar. The states were Georgia (1793), South Carolina (1794), and North Carolina (1795).

75 Salyer, Lucy E., Laws as Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law (Chapel Hill, NC, 1995)Google Scholar; Mae Ngai, “Why Trump Is Making Muslims the New Chinese,” CNN, Jan. 30, 2017, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

76 Ngai, Impossible Subjects, 18–9, 59, 237–8; Marinari, Maddalena, “Divided and Conquered: Immigration Reform Advocates and the Passage of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act,” Journal of American Ethnic History 35, no. 3 (Spring 2016): 940CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

77 Sherry, Michael S., In The Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930s (New Haven, CT, 1995), xiGoogle Scholar, and Lutz, Catherine, “Making War at Home in the United States: Militarization and the Current Crisis,” American Anthropologist 104, no. 3 (Sept. 2002): 723–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar, utilize this definition from Geyer, Michael, “The Militarization of Europe, 1914–1945,” in Gillis, John, ed., The Militarization of the Western World (New Brunswick, NJ, 1989), 65102Google Scholar.

78 Lutz, “Making War at Home in the United States,” 723.

79 Enloe, Cynthia H., Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives (Berkeley, CA, 2000), 3Google Scholar.

80 Dunn, Timothy J., The Militarization of the U.S.–Mexico Border, 1978–1992: Low Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home (Austin, TX, 1996), 34Google Scholar. Dunn suggests that the state-sanctioned use of deadly arms against a targeted civilian population at the U.S.–Mexico border falls in line with the U.S. military's doctrine of “low-intensity conflict,” a method developed in the 1980s to subdue perceived threats to U.S. national security, especially the revolutionary insurgencies in Latin America.

81 Hernández, Migra!, 17–82; Dunn, The Militarization of the U.S.–Mexico Border, 11–2.

82 Dunn, The Militarization of the U.S.–Mexico Border, 14–5; Kang, The INS on the Line, 159.

83 Kang, The INS on the Line, 161.

84 Kang, The INS on the Line, 164, 167.

85 Tichenor, Daniel J., Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America (Princeton, NJ, 2002), 235–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Carly Goodman, “The Shadowy Network Shaping Trump's Anti-Immigration Policies,” Washington Post Made By History, Sept. 27, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

86 “About the Coast Guard,” and “Enforcing Immigration Laws,” (accessed Feb. 11, 2019); Robert B. Watts, “Caribbean Maritime Migration: Challenges for the New Millennium,” Homeland Security Affairs, Supplement No. 2 (April 2008): 1–9; LT Katie Braynard, “225 Years of Service to the Nation: Migrant Interdiction,” Coast Guard Compass: Official Blog of the US Coast Guard, June 16, 2015, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

87 García, María Cristina, Havana USA: Cuban Exiles and Cuban Americans in South Florida, 1959–1994 (Berkeley, CA, 1996), ch. 2Google Scholar; Bon Tempo, Americans at the Gate, 179–84; Lipman, Jana K., “War, Persecution, and Displacement: U.S. Refugee Policy Since 1945,” in Kieran, David and Martini, Edwin A., eds., At War: The Military and American Culture in the Twentieth Century and Beyond (New Brunswick, NJ, 2018), 147–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

88 Lipman, “War, Persecution, and Displacement.”

89 United States Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Alien Migrant Interdiction,” (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Dastyari, Azadeh, United States Migrant Interdiction and the Detention of Refugees in Guantánamo Bay (New York, 2015), 2830CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

90 Watts, Robert B., “Caribbean Maritime Migration: Challenges for the New Millennium,” Homeland Security Affairs, Supplement No. 2 (April 2008): 19Google Scholar; Ivan T. Luke, “Caribbean Mass Migration Operations: MOOTW with the Coast Guard in the Lead,” paper submitted to the faculty of the Naval War College in partial satisfaction of the requirements of the Department of Joint Military Operations, May 18, 1998, 3. Thanks to Jason McGraw for these references.

91 “Enforcing Immigration Laws,”; Watts, “Caribbean Maritime Migration: Challenges for the New Millennium”; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, “Caribbean Migration,” In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience,;jsessionid=f830319631545041105586?migration=10&bhcp=1 (accessed February 18, 2019).

92 United States Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Alien Migrant Interdiction.”

93 Lipman, Jana K., Guantánamo: A Working-Class History Between Empire and Revolution (Berkeley, CA, 2009), 206–7Google Scholar.

94 Paik, A. Naomi, Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in U.S. Prison Camps Since World War II (Chapel Hill, NC, 2016), 85150CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jana Lipman, “5 Things to Know about Guantanamo Bay on Its 115th Birthday,” The Conversation, Dec. 10, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

95 Lipman, Guantánamo, 206–7.

96 Mendoza, Mary E., “Caging Out, Caging In: Building a Carceral State at the U.S.–Mexico Divide,” Pacific Historical Review 88, no. 1 (Winter 2019): 86109, here 94CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

97 Dunn, The Militarization of the U.S.–Mexico Border, 43–4, 53.

98 Dunn, The Militarization of the U.S.–Mexico Border, 57, 106–7, 117; Hernández, Migra!, 230–2. As Timothy Dunn notes, the National Guard, ordinarily under control of state governors, is usually exempt from Posse Comitatus restrictions except in rare cases when presidents formally place it under federal authority.

99 Dunn, The Militarization of the U.S.–Mexico Border, 66, 128–9, 132; Mendoza, “Caging Out, Caging In.”

100 García, María Cristina, “National (In)security and the Immigration Act of 1996,” Modern American History 1, no. 1 (Mar. 2018): 1, 233–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

101 Hester, Torrie, “Deportability and the Carceral State,” Journal of American History 102, no. 1 (June 2015): 141–51, here 149CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

102 Kang, The INS on the Line, 172–3.

103 American Immigration Council, “Fact Sheet: The Cost of Immigration Enforcement and Border Security,” Jan. 25, 2017, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

104 American Immigration Council, “Fact Sheet: The Cost of Immigration Enforcement.” On ICE, see Carly Goodman, “Angry that ICE is ripping families apart? Don't just blame Trump. Blame Clinton, Bush and Obama too.” Washington Post Made By History, June 11, 2017, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

105 American Immigration Council, “Fact Sheet: The Cost of Immigration Enforcement.”

106 Kang, The INS on the Line, 168.

107 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report,” (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Livia Luan, “Profiting from Enforcement: The Role of Private Prisons in U.S. Immigration Detention,” Migration Policy Institute, May 2, 2018 (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

108 Luan, “Profiting from Enforcement.” Luan notes that in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Jennings v. Rodriguez that detained migrants are not entitled to periodic bond hearings—in other words, that they can be held indefinitely without chances for bail.

109 Torrie Hester, “Deportability and the Carceral State,” at 141.

110 Hester, Torrie, Deportation: The Origins of U.S. Policy (Philadelphia, PA, 2017), 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On the history of deportation, see also Kanstroom, Daniel, Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History (Cambridge MA, 2007)Google Scholar; and Hirota, Hidetaka, Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy (New York, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

111 Torrie Hester, “Deportability and the Carceral State,” here 148–9. See also Wadhia, Shoba Sivaprasad, Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases (New York, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

112 Dara Lind, “The Disastrous, Forgotten 1996 Law that Created Today's Immigration Problem,” Vox, Apr. 28, 2016, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019). As Sarah Stillman explains, “soar[ing] numbers of refugees and asylum seekers (five-fold) have come to the United States over the past decade from Central America's Northern Triangle—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, pushed out by the violence of organized gangs. Many have turned back by U.S. authorities, doomed to lose their lives and their loved ones.” Sarah Stillman, “When Deportation Is a Death Sentence,” New Yorker, Jan. 15, 2018, (accessed April 15, 2019).

113 A starting point on Southeast Asian deportations is Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, “The Devastating Impact of Deportation on Southeast Asian Americans,” April 15, 2018, (accessed March 6, 2019). On the deportation of Central Americans by the United States and Mexico, see Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas and Victoria Rietig, “Migrants Deported from the United States and Mexico to the Northern Triangle: A Statistical and Socioeconomic Profile,” Migration Policy Institute, Sept. 2015, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019). In the case of the United States, Cecilia Manjivar, Leisy J. Abrego, and Leah Schmalzbauer note that Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran immigrants (alongside Mexican immigrants) are “vastly overrepresented among detainees and deportees.” See Manjivar, , et al. Immigrant Families (Cambridge, UK, 2016)Google Scholar.

114 Davis, Mike, Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the U.S. City (New York, 2001), 6978Google Scholar; Laila Lalami, “The Border Is All Around Us, and It's Growing,” New York Times Magazine, Apr. 25, 2017, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

115 Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now; Volpp, Leti, “The Citizen and the Terrorist,” UCLA Law Review 49 (June 2002): 1575–600, here 1580–3Google Scholar.

116 Provine, Doris Marie, Varsanyi, Monica W., Lewis, Paul G., and Decker, Scott H., Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines (Chicago, IL, 2016), 26–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

117 Kris W. Kobach, one of the key architects of “attrition through enforcement” laws in Arizona and Alabama (HB 56, passed in 2010), outlined his hardline approach in “Attrition Through Enforcement: A Rational Approach to Illegal Immigration,” Tulsa Journal of Comparative and International Law 15, no. 2 (2008): 153–61; Arizona v. United States 567 U.S. 387 (2012), (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

118 Nevins, Joseph, Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the “Illegal Alien” and the Making of the U.S.–Mexico Boundary (New York, 2002), 184–5Google Scholar.

119 Kalhan, Anil, “Immigration Surveillance,” Maryland Law Review 74, no. 1 (2014): 178Google Scholar, here 9.

120 Iyer, Deepa, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (New York, 2015), 3944Google Scholar.

121 Iyer, We Too Sing America, 26; Volpp, “The Citizen and the Terrorist,” 1580–1; Belew, Kathleen, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Cambridge, 2018), 3354; 78; 97–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

122 Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now, 91–112; Chavez, The Latino Threat, 23–4, 135–56. Chavez points out that the “reconquistador” narrative was widely reproduced by the mainstream media in the 1980s and 1990s. Thanks to Carly Goodman for this reference.

123 Minutemen Civil Defense Corps press release, June 28, 2006, reprinted in Ngai, Mae M. and Gjerde, Jon, eds., Major Problems in American Immigration History, 2nd ed. (Boston, 2013), 585–6Google Scholar.

124 Volpp, “The Citizen and the Terrorist”; Iyer, We Too Sing America, 1–8.

125 Iyer, We Too Sing America, xii.

126 American Immigration Council, “Summary of Executive Order ‘Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,’” May 19, 2017, (accessed March 6, 2019).

127 On DACA, see National Immigration Law Center, “Status of Current DACA Legislation,” updated February 7, 2019, (accessed March 6, 2019). For updated TPS information, see U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Temporary Protected Status,” (accessed March 6, 2019).

128 The White House, “It's Time to End Chain Migration,” Dec. 15, 2017, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Donald J. Trump, State of the Union Address, Jan. 30, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

129 In December 2018, the federal government identified 2,737 children who had been separated under Trump's “zero tolerance” policy but also admitted that the total number is “unknown” due to the absence of formalized tracking mechanisms. Miriam Jordan, “Family Separation May Have Hit Thousands More Migrant Children Than Reported,” New York Times, Jan. 17, 2019, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Elizabeth Oglesby, “Another Migrant Child Death, We Need a Border Truth Commission,” The Hill, Dec. 27, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

130 Dara Lind, “Denaturalization, Explained: How Trump Can Strip Immigrants of Their Citizenship,” Vox, July 18, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Masha Gessen, “In America, Naturalized Citizens No Longer Have an Assumption of Permanence,” New Yorker, June 18, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

131 Michael Anton, “Citizenship Shouldn't Be a Birthright,” Washington Post, July 18, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

132 Torrie Hester, Mary E. Mendoza, Deirdre Moloney, and Mae Ngai, “Now the Trump Administration Is Trying to Punish Legal Immigrants for Being Poor,” Washington Post Made By History, Aug. 9, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

133 Michael D. Shear and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Trump Sending 5,200 Troops to the Border in an Election-Season Response to Migrants,” New York Times, Oct. 29, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

134 Nevins, Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond; Kang, The INS on the Line, 170–1.

135 W. J. Hennigan, “Pentagon Sends Troops to Texas Border as Trump Again Raises Fears About Caravans,” Time, Feb. 6, 2019, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

136 Lara Seligman, “U.S. Military Readies to Pay for Trump's Border Wall,” Foreign Policy, Jan. 10, 2019, Feb. 18, 2019); Peter Baker, “Trump Declares a National Emergency, and Provokes a Constitutional Clash,” New York Times, February 15, 2019 (accessed March 6, 2019).

137 Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now; Stillman, “When Deportation Is a Death Sentence.”

138 Dunn, Timothy, “Military Collaboration with the Border Patrol in the U.S.–Mexico Border Region: Inter-Organizational Relations and Human Rights Implications,” Journal of Political and Military Sociology 27, no. 2 (Winter 1999): 257–77Google Scholar.

139 Daniella Silva, “Border Patrol Changes Account of Migrant Woman's Killing as Her Family Reels,” NBC News Digital, May 27, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

140 Gerstle, Gary, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ, 2001), 6, 9Google Scholar.

141 Gerstle, American Crucible, 84; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “The Immigrant Army: Immigrant Service Members in World War I,” (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

142 Salyer, Lucy E., “Baptism by Fire: Race, Military Service, and U.S. Citizenship Policy, 1918–1935Journal of American History 91, no. 3 (Dec. 2004): 847–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

143 Wu, Color of Success, chs. 3, 5.

144 Ed Idar, “‘Our People Were Dedicated’: Organizing with the American G.I. Forum,” oral history interview, History Matters, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Gutiérrez, David G., Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley, CA, 1995), 153–5Google Scholar.

145 Katie Bo Williams, “Trump-Khan Feud: A Timeline,” The Hill, Aug. 1, 2016, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

146 Martha Mendoza, “US Army Quietly Discharging Immigrant Recruits,” Army Times, July 5, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Alex Horton, “The Pentagon Promised Citizenship to Immigrants Who Served. Now It Might Help Deport Them,” Washington Post, June 26, 2017, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019).

147 Jason Lemon, “Donald Trump Has Doubled Rejection Rate for Veterans Requesting Family Deportation Protections,” Newsweek, July 5, 2018, (accessed Feb. 18, 2019); Horton, “The Pentagon Promised Citizenship to Immigrants Who Served”; Laignee Barron, “US Army Veteran Deported to Mexico After 2 Tours in Afghanistan,” Time, Mar. 26, 2018, Feb. 18, 2019).

148 Edwidge Danticat, Foreword to Nguyen, We Are All Suspects Now, xi.

149 Lutz, “Making War at Home in the United States,” 723.

150 Komska, Yulia, Moyd, Michelle, and Gramling, David, Linguistic Disobedience: Restoring Power to Civic Language (Cham, Switzerland, 2019)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Young, “‘I was thinking, as I often do these days, of war,’” here 2, cited in Sherry, “War as a Way of Life.”

Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

It's Time to Center War in U.S. Immigration History
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

It's Time to Center War in U.S. Immigration History
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

It's Time to Center War in U.S. Immigration History
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *