To explain this contradiction, this paper combines research fields that are often approached separately. It pushes beyond conventional understandings of the postwar metropolis, usually portrayed in black and white, and it builds on innovative research of the legal borderlands of the nation, asserting that the national border was intertwined with the racial borders that fragmented the postwar metropolis. Drawing examples from the Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican American experiences, this paper argues that immigrant rights in the postwar decades were determined less by immigration status than by the racial exclusions built into the postwar welfare state. It analyzes government documents, real estate records, oral histories, and the papers of social movements, focusing on California’s Santa Clara County. In the postwar decades, the county burgeoned from a sparsely populated agricultural center into the fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation: the epitome of suburban sprawl, the birthplace of Silicon Valley, and an immigrant gateway. Metropolitan development swept up largely agricultural Japanese and Mexican American communities, transforming racial boundaries, citizenship rights, and immigrants’ and natives’ relationship to the welfare state.
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