Friday, January 6, 2017

Hirota, "Expelling the Poor"

New from Oxford University Press--and a book that this blogger has been eagerly anticipating: Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy (January 2017), by Hidetaka Hirota (City College of New York). A description from the Press:
Historians have long assumed that immigration to the United States was free from regulation until anti-Asian racism on the West Coast triggered the introduction of federal laws to restrict Chinese immigration in the 1880s. Studies of European immigration and government control on the East Coast have, meanwhile, focused on Ellis Island, which opened in 1892.

In this groundbreaking work, Hidetaka Hirota reinterprets the origins of immigration restriction in the United States, especially deportation policy, offering the first sustained study of immigration control conducted by states prior to the introduction of federal immigration law. Faced with the influx of impoverished Irish immigrants over the first half of the nineteenth century, nativists in New York and Massachusetts built upon colonial poor laws to develop policies for prohibiting the landing of destitute foreigners and deporting those already resident to Europe, Canada, or other American states. These policies laid the foundations for federal immigration law. By investigating state officials' practices of illegal removal, including the overseas deportation of citizens, this book reveals how the state-level treatment of destitute immigrants set precedents for the use of unrestricted power against undesirable aliens. It also traces the transnational lives of the migrants from their initial departure from Ireland and passage to North America through their expulsion from the United States and postdeportation lives in Europe, showing how American deportation policy operated as part of the broader exclusion of nonproducing members from societies in the Atlantic world.

By locating the roots of American immigration control in cultural prejudice against the Irish and, more essentially, economic concerns about their poverty in nineteenth-century New York and Massachusetts, Expelling the Poor fundamentally revises the history of American immigration policy.
A few blurbs:
"Expelling the Poor is the first book-length treatment of how antebellum immigration restriction emerged from centuries-old restrictions on the residence and mobility of the poor. In showing how indigent Irish migrants in the nineteenth century were shunted between the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland, Hirota contributes towards rethinking the historiography of immigration restriction in the United States, which has conventionally dated the beginnings of immigration restriction to the Chinese Exclusion laws of the 1880s. This is a major accomplishment." --Kunal Parker
"An essential contribution to the history of immigration law in the United States, Hirota's meticulously researched volume traces the evolution of municipal and state immigration policies and practices designed to exclude undesirable trans-Atlantic migrants, especially Irish Catholic paupers, from New York and Massachusetts, before and during the Civil War. Tackling a long understudied chapter in America's peopling, Hirota adeptly demonstrates how state restrictions designed to exclude those deemed potential public charges and culturally too alien for assimilation eventually became the foundation of the federal government's plenary power over immigration and later patterns of exclusion and deportation." --Alan M. Kraut
More information is available here.