chapter  2
Governing Admission to the United States: Basic Themes
Pages 18

Immigration law in the United States has been shaped by much larger concerns about the type of political community that majorities of Americans have wanted. Immigration rules thus tell us a great deal about the various kinds of Utopian visions that American policy makers and voters have shared, both morally and politically. For example, immigration rules have long reserved important economic opportunities for American citizens first and, to the extent that immigrants encroach upon those opportunities, American citizens have demanded restrictive rules. For an extensive period of time, between 1882 and 1965, immigration rules also restricted Asians and other “undesirable races,” on the theory that such persons could never assimilate into, or be acceptable within, mainstream American society. In these ways, immigration law has always served as an important set of social policies that described what the United States should look like as a nation-state-free from persons who were economically or culturally threatening, attractive to those who contribute positively, and always mindful of protecting the interests of American citizens first.