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One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 (2020)

by Jia Lynn Yang

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1152242,068 (4.15)None
"A sweeping history of the legislative battle to reform American immigration laws that set the stage for the immigration debates roiling America today. The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is today so pervasive, and seems so foundational, that it can be hard to believe Americans ever thought otherwise. But a 1924 law passed by Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing immigration from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning people from nearly all of Asia. In a compelling narrative with a fascinating cast of characters, Jia Lynn Yang recounts how a small number of lawmakers, activists, and presidents worked relentlessly for the next forty years to abolish the 1924 law and its quotas. Their efforts established the new mythology of the United States as "a nation of immigrants" that is so familiar to all of us now. Through a world war, a global refugee crisis, and a McCarthyist fever that swept the country, these Americans never stopped trying to restore the United States to a country that lived up to its vision as a home for "the huddled masses" from Emma Lazarus's famous poem. When the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, one of the most transformative laws in the country's history, ended the country's system of racial preferences among immigrants, it opened the door to Asian, Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern migration at levels never seen before-paving the way for America's modern immigration trends in ways those who debated it could hardly have imagined"--… (more)
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A great overview of the immigration battles that took place in the U.S. during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, focusing especially on the 1920s-1960s. Gave a good portrayal of the different personalities and societal movements involved in the discussions, weaving in seemingly disparate information throughout that helped show the different perspectives.

Conclusion seemed a little weak on tying everything up; arguments were made that could have been better supported. A chapter discussing the transition of the immigration system post-1965 that included more hard evidence (as was given throughout the book) could have helped shore that up a bit.

Highly recommended to those interested in U.S. history, nativism, immigration, and mid-century politics. ( )
  alrajul | Apr 14, 2024 |
5800 One Mighty and Irresistible Tide The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965, by Jia Lynn Yang (read 3 Sep 2022) This 2020 book details the effort to allow immigration into the United States untied to the percentage of Americans present in the country, which by the 1924 American law prevented much immigration of non-Europeans. The 1965 law has greatly increased legal immigration, especially of people not from Europe. It obviously was desirable to get away from racially-biased immigration, though whether the great increase in immigration to the country is desirable some will question. ( )
  Schmerguls | Sep 3, 2022 |
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Epigraph
We are the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide our inheritance. On this Western Hemisphere all tribes and people are forming into one federated whole; and there is a future which shall see the estranged children of Adam restored as to the old hearthstone in Eden. . . . The seed is sown, and the harvest must come. - Herman Melville, Redburn (1849)
Dedication
To my parents, Ed and Mei-Shin, for making the journey
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(Prologue) On November 12, 1954, Edward J. Shaughnessy took one last look around the island that had become his home.
It was a moment of crisis in this new land, so they had come to the place that felt most like home.
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"A sweeping history of the legislative battle to reform American immigration laws that set the stage for the immigration debates roiling America today. The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is today so pervasive, and seems so foundational, that it can be hard to believe Americans ever thought otherwise. But a 1924 law passed by Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing immigration from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning people from nearly all of Asia. In a compelling narrative with a fascinating cast of characters, Jia Lynn Yang recounts how a small number of lawmakers, activists, and presidents worked relentlessly for the next forty years to abolish the 1924 law and its quotas. Their efforts established the new mythology of the United States as "a nation of immigrants" that is so familiar to all of us now. Through a world war, a global refugee crisis, and a McCarthyist fever that swept the country, these Americans never stopped trying to restore the United States to a country that lived up to its vision as a home for "the huddled masses" from Emma Lazarus's famous poem. When the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, one of the most transformative laws in the country's history, ended the country's system of racial preferences among immigrants, it opened the door to Asian, Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern migration at levels never seen before-paving the way for America's modern immigration trends in ways those who debated it could hardly have imagined"--

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