National Insecurities

In this piece, Deirdre Moloney looks at immigration laws and issues surrounding illegal immigration into the United States. He notes the attacks on 9/11 being one factor for increased immigration concerns. He also  reveals how illegal immigration has historically been favored by and beneficial to business and corporate interests, because paying low wages suited their drive for profit. Labor unions, on the other hand, desired increased immigration restrictions so that American workers could be hired and wages would not be driven down. This changed when most manufacturing jobs were lost and unions turned to service employees, which saw their immigrant membership grow. Moloney notes that by 2006 illegal immigrants felt they had a right to protest American policies.
Moloney examines the development of immigration laws over time. He notes that original US immigration law was explicitly restricted to white people. He argues that even when race was not explicitly used as an immigration restriction factor, “racially based proxy methods” have been. He asserts that there is a secret racial motivation behind opposition to illegal immigration or concerns about Islam in the United States in the wake of 9/11, claiming these secret racist perspectives are “veiled in racially neutral rhetoric.”
Moloney goes on to describe the history of immigration, race and deportation, highlighting the fact that at the turn of the 19th-20th Century Northern Europeans saw fewer expulsions than other immigrant groups, which is hardly surprising given the country was founded by Northern Europeans. He also points to the Red Scare, and how the government increased deportation for Eastern European men at this time, out of concerns about Communists. He notes that the government only considered white men to be political actors at this time, and then admits they were right to do so: “that attitude reflected reality in the strictest sense of political activity.”
Moloney uses social history and public policy history in his analysis. He gives a history of deportation and exclusion, and while noting some limitations he offers some insight: “Although the deterrent effect of deportations cannot be accurately measured historically, newspaper accounts, personal experiences of returned immigrants, and word of mouth in originating communities certainly played a role in discouraging groups of affected immigrants from seeking to settle in the United States.” The deportations, then, seem to have been effective in preventing many people from attempting to illegally immigrate in the first place.
Moloney, in his use of social history, concludes by reiterating the intersecting roles of race, gender, class, international relations, and labor needs in driving immigration law and the practice of deportation.

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