The Problem of Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic: Policing Mobility in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Oxford Univ. Apr. 2023. 328p. ISBN 9780197580080. $29.95. HIST
The history of U.S. immigration law is inextricably linked to slavery and the policing of the movement of free Blacks, biracial people, and Black sailors. Kenny (history, NYU; Diaspora: A Very Short Introduction) brings a fresh and insightful look at changing 19th-century immigration law in this crisp legal history. In the century after the American Revolution, states policed their own borders and communities with little guidance from Congress. Many states with slavery looked to Congress for help capturing freedom seekers, but feared that if Congress regulated immigration, their control over those who were free and the interstate trade itself would end. In the 1870s, in order to stop Chinese immigration in the Western U.S., the federal government asserted their right to control admissions into the country and to control their borders. The interplay between local and state regulations and Congressional laws still affects immigration law in the U.S. Based on a close reading of key immigration law cases and other primary sources, this erudite study sheds light on the long and complicated history of immigration law.
VERDICT Readers interested in 19th-century American history, immigration, and legal history will find much to enjoy in this title.
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