Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Kang on "Making Immigration Law on the US-Mexico Border, 1917-1954"

A timely release from Oxford University Press: The INS on the Line: Making Immigration Law on the US-Mexico Border, 1917-1954 (Dec. 2016), by S. Deborah Kang (California State University, San Marcos). A description from the Press:
For much of the twentieth century, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials recognized that the US-Mexico border region was different. Here, they confronted a set of political, social, and environmental obstacles that prevented them from replicating their achievements on Angel Island and Ellis Island, the most restrictive immigration stations in the nation. In response to these challenges, local INS officials resorted to the law, nullifying, modifying, and creating the nation's immigration laws and policies for the borderlands.

In The INS on the Line, S. Deborah Kang traces the ways in which the INS on the US-Mexico border made and remade the nation's immigration laws over the course of the twentieth century. Through a nuanced examination of the agency's legal innovations in the Southwest, Kang demonstrates that the agency defined itself not only as a law enforcement unit but also as a lawmaking body. In this role, the INS responded to the interests of local residents, businesses, politicians, and social organizations on both sides of the US-Mexico border as well as policymakers in Washington, DC. Given the sheer variety of local and federal demands, local immigration officials constructed a complex approach to border control, an approach that closed the line in the name of nativism and national security, opened it for the benefit of transnational economic and social concerns, and redefined it as a vast legal jurisdiction for the policing of undocumented immigrants.

The composite approach to border control developed by the INS continues to inform the daily operations of the nation's immigration agencies, American immigration law and policy, and conceptions of the US-Mexico border today.
A few blurbs:
"Kang's deeply researched book yields powerful insights about the importance of studying immigration law in action, shifting our focus from Congressional policy-makers in the nation's capital to low-level immigration officials on the nation's southwestern border with Mexico in the first half of the twentieth century. Short on resources and torn between competing interests, immigration officers used their most powerful weapon--administrative discretion--to devise procedures that ultimately became national policy. Want to understand what made today's militarized border possible? Read this book!"--Lucy E. Salyer
"The INS on the Line is a superb book. Kang provides an institutional history of the Immigration and Naturalization Service on the US-Mexico border that is engaging and deeply illuminating. She illustrates the myriad ways in which rank and file agency officials stationed in California, Arizona, and Texas not only implemented federal immigration law, but also helped craft the law itself, demonstrating that they did so not only to better reflect the complex realities of border life but also to better serve the agency's own interests. Though focused on the first half of the twentieth century, the book contains critical insights for our understanding of contemporary immigration policy. This timely book is a must-read for scholars interested in immigration policy, borderlands studies, and the American administrative state."--Cybelle Fox
More information is available here.