GUARDING THE GOLDEN DOOR: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882
Roger Daniels, . . Hill & Wang, $26 (328pp) ISBN 978-0-8090-5343-8
Immigration—perhaps no other subject so contentiously touches on both our collective idealism and our capacity for irrational fear. Nostalgic about past immigrants, we magnify the threat of newly arriving hordes of outsiders. Daniels, author of several books about the Japanese-American experience, judiciously avoids a sweeping narrative in favor of an immersion in the messy details of legislation and demography, although accurate assessments are elusive. Reflecting the lack of overarching plot, the book's first half is chronological to 1965, after which it switches to an ethnic breakdown. As Daniels shows, the subject yields hyperbolic rhetoric and misleading statistics, which rarely lead to coherent or effective legislation. Congress rarely grasp the real ramifications of its immigration policy as it underfunds its nominally ambitious measures. Despite his deeply academic cast of mind, Daniels keeps his prose engaging and lively, as he displays his evident love of accuracy and impatience with obfuscation. Those who read closely will unearth arresting tidbits, such as the central role of the Chinese as targets in virtually all early anti-immigration measures and the brief but virulent anti-Filipino hysteria of the early 1930s. Perhaps most interesting is the final section, in which Daniels tackles broader questions about the debate, including the surprisingly little-changed status of immigration in the post-9/11, post-INS landscape.
Reviewed on: 11/03/2003
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-8090-5344-5