Monday, December 11, 2006

New Book: Motomura, Americans in Waiting

Hiroshi Motomura, Univ. of North Carolina, a leading immigration law scholar, has just published a new book, Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration (Oxford Univ. Press, 2006). Here' s the description:
America is unquestionably a nation of immigrants. And yet throughout its history the practicalities of immigration have inspired more questions than consensus. Who should be admitted? What should the path to citizenship be? Despite national security concerns over enemies penetrating our borders, the number of foreign-born people living in the United States grew to 35 million in 2005, an all-time high. A coherent and rational immigrant policy is more necessary than ever.
In Americans in Waiting , Hiroshi Motomura discovers in our national past a simple yet powerful approach to immigration and citizenship. Rewriting the conventional story, Motomura uncovers how for over 150 years, many immigrants were immediately put on track to U.S. citizenship. They were eligible to homestead land on the western frontier and entitled to overseas diplomatic protection. Citizens-to-be were even allowed to vote. In sum, immigration was assumed to be a transition to citizenship, and immigrants were future citizens--Americans in waiting.
Once central to law and policy, this view has all but vanished. Beginning in the early twentieth century, the United States began to treat its immigrants in one of two ways: as signatories to a "contract" that sets the terms of their stay in this country, or as "affiliates" who can earn rights only as they become, over time, enmeshed in the nation's life. Immigration is now seen too often as a problem to be solved, rather than a pillar of our nation's strength.
"Motomura recovers an important conception of immigration implicit in U.S. law and policy in earlier times: the idea of immigrants as future citizens. In Motomuras skillful hands, the concept takes on new life and provides important insights into current debates on citizenship. With comprehensive historical sweep and theoretical insight, Americans in Waiting masterfully charts the way to more inclusive policies that are true to the U.S.s identity as a nation of immigrants and that promote a robust and cohesive notion of citizenship."--T. Alexander Aleinikoff, author of Semblances of Sovereignty: The Constitution, The State, and American Citizenship