The War Brides Acts and Engagements under Military Rule

Friday, January 3, 2020: 4:10 PM
New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York)
Julian Lim, Arizona State University
This paper re-examines the intimate connections between U.S. soldiers and foreign women in the aftermath of World War II, and the intersections of war, marriage, and immigration law in the postwar period. Exploring the gendered and racial dynamics of the legally recognizable “war bride,” I trace how the War Brides Acts eased the immigration of military spouses from both Europe and Asia in uneven and surprising ways. Paying particular attention to interracial couples, I show how war brides and grooms not only eroded a powerfully exclusionary immigration regime, but also unsettled dominant monoracial understandings of marriage, harnessing the power of the federal government to disrupt state-level eantimiscegenation laws and introduce new, federally-sanctioned multiracial unions into American society.

Connecting foreign relations to immigration law and debates about marriage in the United States, this paper expands upon existing scholarship by analyzing how diverse groups and both sexes navigated the contemporary boundaries of marriage at the border. It also calls attention to the role of federal agents in defining the boundaries of legitimate and illegitimate marriages during the immigration process. While conventional legal histories of marriage define it as a matter of state law, my project traces the expansion of federal power over marriage through immigration law, showing how military authorities and federal immigration agents have long regulated some of the most intimate decisions that individuals can make.

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