R1B - 006 | CCN: 29855

The Craft of Writing

Immigration Law as Race Law: Rhetorics of Migration in 20th & 21st Century North America

Instructor: Zachary Manfredi

4 Units

The regulation of immigration to the United States ignites passions across the political spectrum. Many infamous immigration policies—the travel ban on individuals from Muslim majority countries, the call to construct a wall on the U.S.' southern border, and the termination of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—command national headlines. Popular portrayals of political schisms over immigration often highlight anxieties about national security, racism, open borders, economic insecurity, and criminality. In response to these anxieties, some advocates have emphasized alternative traditions of openness and receptivity to immigrants as an essential feature of U.S. history.

This course approaches contemporary legal and political debates on immigration by examining the history of immigration, race, and labor in the United States. In order to defamiliarize ourselves from traditional narratives, the course begins with a recent book by James Whitman, Hitler's American Model, which unearths how American immigration law served as a model for Nazi race law. Taking Whitman's work as provocation, we will reconsider how the history of immigration law in the United States centers on the racialization of immigrants and the growth of "nativist" ideology. We will study the relatively open late-19th century immigration of Irish, Italian, and German migrants, as well as subsequent legal restrictions on immigration, including the Chinese Exclusion Acts, the Johnson Reed Act of 1924, the Bracero Program of the 1940s and 50s, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, and a series of legislative reforms enacted in the 1990s. We will discuss historical texts, personal narratives, novels, Supreme Court cases, documentaries, periodicals, and theoretical texts. In the latter part of the course, we will bring our historical analysis to bear on the treatment of three contemporary immigrant populations: the groups targeted by the "travel ban" and "war on terror" policies; the "Dreamers" and other undocumented persons; and so-called "criminal aliens." Throughout the course we will focus on how law constructs both immigration status and race, and how different political theories of race, nation, and class give rise to new legal regimes.  

 

This is an intensive writing and research seminar; students will write a diagnostic essay, an analytic essay, and a longer research paper on an immigration topic of their own choosing. Over the course of the semester, I will work closely with each student to help create a critical bibliography of sources for the longer research paper. Students will also write multiple drafts of the research paper. The course will require a good deal of reading over the first month to cover historical material in depth; after a month the reading load will decrease as students focus more intensely on their own projects. Students will be expected to have completed all readings in advance of reach session and may be "cold called" to offer their views.