Crossing Borders, Transcending Boundaries: How Migrants Overcome Obstacles to Reach Their Destinations

AHA Session 15
Immigration and Ethnic History Society 2
Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Berkeley Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Alan Kraut, American University
Madeline Y. Hsu, University of Texas at Austin

Session Abstract

At a time when Americans once again are considering major immigration reform legislation, this panel explores the origins, spread, and reconstitution of U.S. immigration policies—policies that immigrants have long struggled to understand and overcome. Our three papers contribute to a broader understanding of the intersection of race and ethnicity, citizenship, law, and policy in immigration history.  They examine this history through the experiences of Italians entering the U.S. in violation of immigration law at the beginning of the twentieth century, the unique challenges families encountered during migration, and the consequences faced by immigrants charged with criminal sentences.

This panel enhances our historical understanding of the rise of national power over migration and its concomitant legacies through the prism of gender and sexuality, transnationalism, foreign relations, and the social history of immigration.  Maddalena Marinari’s paper shows that, after the National-Origins Act of 1924, the illegal immigration of Italians became a lucrative business for those involved in their smuggling. These activities forced both the American and Italian governments to deal with unexpected consequences of the new American immigration policy and left illegal Italian immigrants in the United States on precarious footing in their new communities.  Torrie Hester’s paper examines the anti-criminal provisions of deportation policy, which Congress first created in 1891 and  constitutes one of today’s largest and most significant categories of deportation.  Deirdre Moloney’s paper addresses the current and historical consequences of U.S. immigration policy on minor children, especially in cases where their citizenship status differs from that of one or both of their parents or is irregular.

Together, the papers provide a richer historical context for topics, such as illegal immigration, non-citizen criminals, and international adoption, that make today’s headlines and invoke controversy but remain surprisingly misunderstood and underexamined.  Marinari’s paper, for example, analyzes illegal immigration from Europe, a little studied phenomenon, and serves as a corrective to popular contemporary conceptions that that all illegal aliens were (and are) Asian or Hispanic.  Hester and Moloney’s papers include an analysis of debates and policies of the last fifteen years.  Hester provides us with an analysis of ICE’s Criminal Alien Program, which the government now uses to identify immigrants incarcerated under criminal law and remove them before the end of their sentence.  Moloney concludes the panel with an examination of the bipartisan-sponsored “DREAM” program and the implications of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIR).

Our chair and commentator broaden the scope of the panel. An expert on the intersection of immigration, ethnicity, and medicine, Alan Kraut will serve as the panel’s chair and Madeline Hsu, a scholar of Asian immigration, will comment.  Their scholarly perspectives on immigration policy  will enrich the discussion and provide valuable insight on additional facets of the immigration policy debate.

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