One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle over American Immigration, 1924–1965

Norton. May 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780393635843. $26.95.. HIST
New York Times editor Yang’s book focuses on a period between two sweeping immigration reform laws that dramatically reshaped the nature of American society. The Immigration Act of 1924 ended a period of largely unrestricted entry into the United States by people from throughout the world, though largely from Europe. This ultimately created a system of racist laws that led to a shift in the country’s racial makeup; preferring groups from northern and western Europe as opposed to Eastern Europe and Asia. In 1965, following World War II and the Cold War, Congress replaced quotas with new criteria that became the basis for our current system. Yang presents a series of portraits of individuals who shaped this social and political transition, and sought to control national laws. New York congressman Emanuel Celler, for example, was an outspoken advocate, opposing the Immigration Act of 1924 and sponsoring the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The book reveals the complexities of these policies during times of dramatically changing international conditions.
VERDICT A clear, well-crafted historical overview of U.S. immigration, and the people who shaped it. Yang defines the issues these debates raised but never settled in a way that informs without overwhelming readers.

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