Immigration Policy: Why Legislation (and Its History) Matters

Immigration legislation might be “dead for the year” in the House of Representatives, but it will be front and center at the American Historical Association’s 2014 annual meeting. On Friday, January 3, a panel of immigration historians will explore the impact of legislation on immigration and immigrants in the United States. Just as the conference as a whole offers a model of how disagreement can generate light amidst heated (but civil) debate, this session will offer an example of how historical thinking can inform a legislative agenda. Readers can also watch a video of our panelists participating in a congressional briefing on this topic, held recently in the Rayburn House Office building.

AHA Session 80

Friday, January 3, 2014: 10:30 AM–12:00 PM

Washington Room 4 (Marriott Wardman Park)

Chair: Alan Kraut, American University


Tyler Anbinder, George Washington University
Donna R. Gabaccia, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Mae M. Ngai, Columbia University

Session Abstract

This session will focus on the impact of federal legislation on immigration and immigrants. What are the sorts of issues that emerge from a historical understanding of the impact of immigration legislation?


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  1. RT

    Are there any other nations–with the possible exceptions of Australia, Canada, and almost all Latin American countries–that have been populated almost exclusively (if you overlook indigenous populations) by immigrants? Without a geographical and cultural history of xenophobic autonomy (formerly the status of so many European and Asian nations), is it any wonder that this nation cannot seem to figure out how to manage the on-and-off spigot of immigration?

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