Race and Immigration Policy in the Americas

April 11, 2012, 6-8 p.m.
Orientation Room, 2 West 13th Street (at Fifth Ave)

Understandings of immigration policy have all too often been limited by national blinders that fail to understand the full weight of interactions across borders. Domestic class conflict is a necessary but insufficient explanation for patterns of ethnic selection. Policies often converged in ways that inward-looking perspectives on ideologies of nation-building cannot fully explain. While racism had an important causal role to play in the development of immigration policies, the critical race perspective struggles to explain why racialized polities that were the norm throughout the Americas have been replaced by laws that are explicitly anti-racist and which in North America have yielded highly diverse immigration flows. The argument that liberal democracies are inherently incompatible with ethnic selection does not hold water when explaining the onset of these policies or their demise. This project disentangles the different mechanisms of policy diffusion in their interaction with domestic factors. Most surprisingly, in the light of the consensus that norms flow from the strong to the weak, this study shows how weak countries working in concert can create new international norms in ways that literally reshape nation- states. Decolonization and geopolitics were the critical drivers for ending policies of racial and other ethnic discrimination in immigration law.

A Panel Discussion with:
David FitzGerald, UC San Diego
Victoria Hattam, The New School
Adam McKeown, Columbia University

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