Immigration to the United States

An Annotated Bibliography


This guide has been compiled by the students in HIS300 Topics: U.S. Immigration Policy, Politics and Practice, Fall 2018. The sources selected focus in particular on the political and social forces that influenced legislation and other political action, and on the social, economic and political consequences that followed. The sections are organized chronologically, from the legislation that ended the importation of enslaved Africans in 1807 to the introduction and revision of the modern immigration system in the mid-late twentieth century.

-- Prof. Wendy Gordon

Ending the International Slave Trade (1807)

Primary Sources

“Slave Trade Abolition Act of 1807.” Slave Trade Abolition Act of 1807 (2017) August, 1.

  • A look at the act passed by the Senate and House of Representatives, that prohibited slave importation from anywhere outside the United States.

An Act: To continue in force “An act to protect the commerce of the United States, and punish the crime of piracy,” and also to make further provision for punishing the crime of piracy. Public Law 600 U.S. Statutes at Large 113 (May 1820): 600-601.

  • An act to protect the commerce of the United States, and to punish the crime of piracy, which includes under the definition of this act the transport of any negro or mulatto for the purpose of slavery. This act also made provisions for the punishment of piracy as defined in this act.

Secondary Sources

Akehurst, Hazel. “Sectional Crises and the Fate of Africans Illegally Imported into the United States, 1806-1860.” American Nineteenth Century History 9 no.2, (2008) : 97–122.

  • This article addresses the end of the Slave Trade and focuses on the sectionalism that occurred between the North and the South during this time period. The article does not only focus on the end of the slave trade, but the issue of slavery itself. Although the article is lengthy, the author made subheadings outlining the different main events that took place throughout 1806-1860. One of the recurring issues the author addresses in this article is the problem of how and where to place African peoples that were illegally imported as slaves.

Deyle, Steven. “An ‘Abominable’ New Trade: The Closing of the African Slave Trade and the Changing Patterns of U.S. Political Power, 1808-60.” The William and Mary Quarterly 66, no. 4 (2009): 833-850.

  • An examination of the socioeconomic effects brought about following the end of the global slave trade. This is done by focusing on the slave state of Virginia. Furthermore it is argued that although the deep South supported the abolition of foreign slave importation, there was a still a strong support for expanding slavery within the United States for economic gain.

Finkelman, Paul. “Regulating the African Slave Trade” Civil War History 54, no. 4 (2008): 379-405.

  • The article defines the reasons for citizens of different geographical areas to support slavery and the slave trade within the United States. While also touching on on the international pressures from Great Britain on the United States in regards to the slave trade.

Goldfarb, Stephen J. “An Inquiry into the Politics of the Prohibition of the International Slave Trade.” Agricultural History 68, no. 2 (1994): 20–34.

  • Goldfarb uses primary sources from Thomas Jefferson, and Dubois to discuss the slave trade and its relation to politics in the 19th century. The paper outlines the complicated events he felt these led to the abolition of slavery. The article concludes by talking about the four measures that the people in the revolutionary generation took against slavery, and what might have happened if slavery had not been abolished in 1808.

Rawley, James A. “Captain Nathaniel Gordon, the Only American Executed for Violating the Slave Trade Laws.” Civil War History 39, no.3 (1993):216.

  • This article details the eventual capture and execution of Captain Nathaniel Gordon. Gordon’s death set an example for how the Slave Trade Abolition Act was enforced, and led to the creation of the Lyons-Seward treaty. This treaty allowed Great Britain and the United States to monitor the other’s ships for illegal activity. Captain Gordon’s execution set a new standard for the enforcement of the Slave Trade Abolition Act of 1807.

Know-Nothing Era (1850s)

Primary Sources

America Party. “American Party Platform.” American Party Platform, 22-23.

  • The article explains the downfall of the Whig party and how the Know-Nothing Party emphasized on this ascending into politics. It also details the American Party’s beliefs including who they believed should be in power within the United States.

Morse, Samuel F. B. “Dangers of Foreign Immigration.” Imminent Dangers to the Free Institutions of the United States through Foreign Immigration, (1835): 26-30.

  • The author of this article expresses his concerns regarding Roman Catholic immigration into the United States. He also expresses his distaste for the way that Catholics ignore certain values and the amendments of the United States.

Secondary Sources

Curley, Augustine J. “The 1854 Attack on Saint Mary’s Church, Newark: A Typical Know-Nothing Incident.” American Benedictine Review 61, no. 4 (2010): 387–406.

  • Curley examines the attack of an Irish Catholic church in Newark, New Jersey. On September 5th, 1854, protestant nativists were said to have attacked the church in celebration of the anniversary of the first session of the American Congress. Curley evaluates the coverage of the attack in media and addresses the obvious Know-Nothings bias. The author also provides a version of the attack more in favor of the Irish. Ultimately, he attempts to give the audience both sides of the attack.

Deusner, Charles E. “The Know Nothing Riots in Louisville,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 61, no. 2 (1963): 122-47.

  • This article shows the rise in numbers of immigrants coming to Louisville. It also addresses the rise of the know-nothing party and its political candidates in Kentucky. Furthermore, the article stresses that the people of Kentucky had anxiety about the growing numbers of immigrants in Louisville, whom they believed increased the population of the city’s prisons and hospitals.

Dolan, Jay P. “Immigrants in the City: New York’s Irish and German Catholics.” Church History 41, no. 3 (September 1972): 354-68.

  • This article depicts the various ways the Catholic Church positively impacted the way of life for German and Irish immigrants in New York City. Dolan also outlines the methods of assimilation in the mid-1800s that Irish and German migrants residing in New York City used to establish their own communities and enclaves.

Gienapp, William E. “Nativism and the Creation of a Republican Majority in the North before the Civil War.” The Journal of American History 72, no. 3 (December 1985): 529-559.

  • This article outlines the rise in power of the Republican Party as the main opposition to the Democratic Party during the antebellum period. Gienapp argues that the adoption of Know-Nothing Party ideology by the Republicans was pivotal in gaining voter support for their party in the 1850s.

Holt, Michael F. “The Politics of Impatience: The Origins of Know Nothingism.” Journal of American History 60, no. 2, (September 1973): 309–331.

  • This article discusses the Know-Nothing Party and its emergence in the 1850’s. The disintegration of the Whig party contributed to the ascendance of the Know-Nothings. The rise of the Know-Nothings was coupled with a wave of nativist and anti-Catholic beliefs that carried the party to the forefront of the political theater. The eventual downfall of the Know-Nothings came in the form of voter impatience, who had been anxious about the lack of policy stances by the party, specifically on the issues of public school and temperance. The author also includes information about the nomination of Millard Fillmore and the effects this nomination had on the Know-Nothings. Many of the Know-Nothings supporters turned to the Republican party.

Marius M. Carriere Jr. “Anti-Catholicism, Nativism, and Louisiana Politics in the 1850’s.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 35, no. 4 (1994): 455-74.

  • During the 1850’s in Louisiana the Know-Nothing Party found support from Nativist and Anti-Catholic sentiments. Louisiana was divided over their proposed national ideology. This strong rise over the next twenty years led to a staggering crash that shattered the Know-Nothing Party’s practice.

Raymond L. Cohn. “Nativism and the End of the Mass Migration of the 1840s and 1850s.” The Journal of Economic History 60, no. 2, (2000): 361-383.

  • This article details the rise of nativism that led to the end of mass migration in the United States. The author argues that rising violence against Catholics in 1853 and Know-Nothing success in 1854 elections led to a decline in migration from Europe, specifically Germany and Ireland. The author mentions that improving conditions in Europe also played a role. After the fracturing of the nativist movement in 1856, volumes of migrants from Germany and Ireland began to increase again. This shows that the nativist movement was the primary reason for the decline of mass migration to the United States.

Chinese Exclusion (1882)

Primary Sources

U.S. Congress. An Act to Execute Certain Treaty stipulations relating to Chinese. 47th Congress, Sess. 1. Chap. 126, (May 6, 1882): 58-61.

  • The first federal act to explicitly restrict Chinese immigration based on race and class rather than condition. Includes provisions for Chinese people in the United States prior to the Act and for enforcement.

Lockemy, James E. “A Standing Menace to Republican Institutions: A Brief Overview of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and America’s First Attempt to Ban a ‘Defined’ Group from Entry into Our Nation.” Judges’ Journal 56, no.3 (Summer 2017): 14 - 16.

  • A brief history and commentary on the Chinese Exclusion Act in the context of the 2017 “Muslim ban” proposed by President Trump. Chronicles the transition of enforcement and jurisdiction of such immigration laws from judicial to immigration officials.

Olmsted, Roger. “The Chinese Must Go!” California Historical Quarterly 50, no. 3 (September 1971): 285-294.

  • California became the heartland for “The Chinese Must Go” the Anti Chinese rallying cry. The white workers banded together over “Anti-Coolie” sentiments, during the Gold Rush, and used their influence to pass racist legislation. Publically, these laws made success harder for the almost 150,000 Chinese workers.

Secondary Sources

Griffith, Sarah M. “Border Crossings: Race, Class, and Smuggling in Pacific Coast Chinese Immigrant Society.” The Western Historical Quarterly 35, no. 4 (2004): 473-492.

  • Griffith describes the corruption and lengths that merchant companies went to smuggle in Chinese labors and opium. This piece illustrates that it wasn’t always about race, but class. This matters because it relates to our overarching topic about Chinese Exclusion policy and enforcement.

Kanazawa, Mark. “Immigration, Exclusion, and Taxation: Anti-Chinese Legislation in Gold Rush California.” The Journal of Economic History 65, no. 3 (September 2005): 779-805.

  • The California Gold Rush in the nineteenth century provides an early example of anti-Chinese sentiments within the United States. Kanazawa focuses on the economic history of Chinese migration and its effect on California’s state government.

Lee, Erika. “The Chinese Exclusion Example: Race, Immigration, and American Gatekeeping, 1882-1924.” Journal of American Ethnic History 21, no. 3 (2002): 36-62.

  • Embeds the Chinese Exclusion Act in the context of increasingly restrictive immigration sentiment in the United States. The exclusion act was a watershed moment for American immigration policy, setting up the ideology of gatekeeping rather than free entry.

McKee, Delbert L. “‘The Chinese Must Go!’ Commissioner General Powderly and Chinese Immigration, 1897–1902,” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 44, no. 1 (1977): 37-51 .

  • This article explains the beliefs of General Terence Powderly, an influential political leader in Pennsylvania from 1897-1902. During his time, he devoted his life to rigorous enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act and encouraged his supporters to do the same. He was dissatisfied with the way the act was currently being enforced, and used his influence to push his views onto acts and laws being passed by Congress.

Perkins, Clifford A. “Reminiscences of a Chinese Inspector.” The Journal of Arizona History 17, no. 2 (1976): 181-200.

  • Perkins’ article offers a lens into the late 1800s and early 1900s after the Chinese Exclusion legislation is passed through the experiences of a Chinese US Immigration Officer in 1911-12. His duties were to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act and prevent the illegal entry of Chinese people in the US through the Mexican border. It addresses the evolution of the Customs Service, Immigration Service and the creation of the Border Patrol.

Johnson-Reed Act (1924)

Primary Sources

Beaman, Middleton. “The Immigration Act of 1924.” The American Bar Association Journal 10, no. 7 (1924): 490-492.

  • A brief ,yet thorough examination of the Immigration Act of 1924, by Legislator Middleton Beaton. Provides an informal extensive breakdown of the administrative and bureaucratic processes involved in determining immigrant laws regarding entry and deportation.

An Act to limit the immigration of Aliens into the United States, and for other purposes. H.R. 7995. 68 U.S. Congress, 1rst sess., Congressional Record 190 (May 26, 1924): 153-165.

  • The legislation known commonly as the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. This act was the first in United States history to put number quotas on immigration by allocating visas based on national origin.

Secondary Sources

Allerfeldt, Kristofer. “‘And We Got Here First’: Albert Johnson, National Origins and Self-Interest in the Immigration Debate of the 1920s.” Journal of Contemporary History 1, no.7 (2010): 7-26.

  • Examines the experience of Congressman Albert Johnson, who was the co-founder of the Immigration Act of 1924. It reveals some of his personal beliefs, and how they influenced his political ideals. The article also touches briefly on the opposition of politicians and individuals against the notorious 1924 act.

Daniels, Roger. “Immigration Policy in a Time of War: The United States, 1939 - 1945.” Journal of American Ethnic History 25, no. 2 (2006): 107-116.

  • Rogers argues in his article that World War II affected the way that immigration policy was written and carried out for the rest of the twentieth century. The article depicts four main areas of immigration over time including registration, naturalization, refugee status, and non-immigrant definitions.

Finkelstein, Monte. “The Johnson Act, Mussolini, and Fascist Emigration Policy: 1921-1930.” Journal of American Ethnic History 8, no. 1 (1988): 38-55.

  • A look at the emigration patterns in postwar Italy in the 1920s due to Mussolini’s rise to power. Finkelstein also examines how the Johnson-Reed Act affected immigration from Italy by comparing the outcome to the years beforehand. This article does an exceptional job of demonstrating the effect of push and pull factors on immigration and how government policies play a role within them.

Ngai, Mae. “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924.” The Journal of American History 86, no.1 (1999): 67-92.

  • Goes into detail about the Immigration Act of 1924, focusing on several Supreme Court decisions, census practices and how they created categories of race and nationality to monitor immigration and determine eligibility for American citizenship. It also emphasizes the privileges granted to northern Europeans at this time and the expansion of the construction of race in society.

Ngai, Mae M. “The Strange Career of the Illegal Alien: Immigration Restriction and Deportation Policy in the United States, 1921-1965.” Law and History Review 21, no.1 (2003): 69-107.

  • This article discusses the different methods and practices of illegal immigration during the Johnson-Reed era. Ngai also outlines the way the government combated these practices and the deportation process of undocumented immigrants.

Parker, Warner. “The Ineligible to Citizenship Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.” The American Journal of International Law 19, no. 1 (January 1925): 23-47.

  • Defines the differences between quota and non-quota eligible immigrants as laid out by the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, specifically Chinese immigrants. Parker focuses on the human purpose provision of the legislation, or the prevention of the separation of families. This article also defines the bureaucratic process for immigration in the 1920s.

Reimers, David. “Post- World War II Immigration to the United States: America’s Latest Newcomers.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 454 (March 1981): 1-12.

  • This article focuses on the liberalization of immigration acts following World War II though the 1980’s. It heavily examines the definition of refugee and its evolution over time. Reimers uses examples such as the War Brides Act of 1945 and the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 as well as several Refugee Acts in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s to support his thesis and show the United States relaxation of immigration policies in the mid-twentieth century.

Wang, Peters. “Farmers and the Immigration Act of 1924.” Agricultural History 49 no. 4, (October 1975): 647-652.

  • Examines the Immigration Act of 1924 and the influence it had on agriculture in the South. Wang does a good job in describing the discrimination that existed in the formation of the Johnson-Reed Act and the need for the Farmers and the Immigration Act of 1924. Wang depicts how the government gave preferential treatment to farmers and raised quotas to benefit the amount of agricultural laborers in the South.

Hart-Cellar Act (1965)

Primary Sources

An Act to Amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, Public Law 89 U.S. Statutes at Large 236 (October 3, 1965): 911-922.

Johnson, Lyndon B. “Remarks at the Signing of the Immigrations Bill.” Liberty Island, New York. (October 3, 1965): 1037-1040.

  • Johnson first remarks on the Hart-Cellar Act given on Liberty Island following the signing of the bill. Gives context to global events of the 1960s and emphasized the Cuban refugee crisis.

Secondary Sources

Armenta, Amanda. “Who Policies Immigration?” In Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2017: 15-35.

  • Details who is actually policing immigrants. Armenta covers everything from illegal immigration to arrests and deportations. She explains how it is determined who may enter the United States, who has to leave, and who is eligible for admission.

Goldsborough, James. “Out-of-Control Immigration.” Foreign Affairs 79, no. 5 (2000): 1-13.

  • When the U.S. economy is doing well, little attention was paid to the fact that immigration to the United States is at its highest absolute levels. An economy in a recession has a direct connection with anti-immigrant feelings in America. When there is competition between immigrant labor and native workers, it devalues labor. Businesses perpetuate this, leading to the immigration to be labeled as “Out-of-Control”.

Kennedy, Edward M. “Immigration Law: Some Refinements and New Reforms.” The International Migration Review 4, no.3 (1970): 4-10.

  • Senator Kennedy comments on the Hart-Cellar Act and why he endorsed it. He emphasizes that he thinks the immigration policy was a step in the right direction for a more fair and comprehensive legislation. Kennedy was an advocate for the allocation of visas without regards to national origins.

Law, Anna O. “The Diversity Visa Lottery: A Cycle of Unintended Consequences in United States Immigration Policy.” Journal of American Ethnic History 21, no. 4 (Summer 2002):3-30.

  • The immigration reform in the 1960s slowed the flow of immigrants from areas like Ireland and Italy by adding family reunification and work requirements, closing the most popular immigration routes for these groups. The diversity lottery was added to allow unskilled Europeans without close family into the country, but it passed during a decline of European immigration.

Reimers, David M. “An Unintended Reform: The 1965 Immigration Act and Third World Immigration to the United States.” Journal of American Ethnic History 3, no. 1, (1983): 9-28.

  • By prioritizing family reunification, conservatives hoped to encourage more immigration from Europe while not having a national origins quota. The result was ethnic minorities from Asia and Latin America were sponsoring relatives in greater numbers than Europeans as European immigration slowed following the 1960s.

Rodino, Hon. Peter Jr. “New Immigration Law in Retrospect.” International Migration Review 2, (Summer 1968): 56-56.

  • Rodino goes into depth of the roots that were behind the act and how the national origins system was outdated. Rodino argues that the officials in charge of the national origins system did little to nothing to end the system and how unsuccessful the system was in use. He then goes on to explain how the Immigration Act of 1968 restructured the immigration process by prioritizing skill laborers versus basing the entrance of migrants off of the quota system.

Tichenore, Daniel. “The Historical Presidency: Lyndon Johnson’s Ambivalent Reform: The immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 46, no. 3 (2016): 691-705.

  • Paints Lyndon Johnson’s endorsement of the Hart-Cellar Act as a great triumph of his “Great Society” in the 1960s. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 replaced racist and discriminatory national origins quotas with a new skills and family unification precedent.

Tichenore, Daniel J. “The Politics of Immigration Reform in the United States, 1981-1990.” Polity 26, no.3 (Spring 1994): 333-362.

  • Goes into detail about how the Hart Cellar Act was used in the 1980’s and the problems that the courts faced. This article examines the mixed ideologies about the changes that the Hart Cellar Act enforced. The author also discusses the courts involvement to interpret and apply these reforms.