Friday, August 30, 2013
Immigration Article of the Day: An Assessment of Antebellum Immigration Federalism and The Myth of the Weak State by Anna O. Law
An Assessment of Antebellum Immigration Federalism and The Myth of the Weak State by Anna O. Law, CUNY Brooklyn College, APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper
Abstract: In a federal system of government, why did the U.S. national government wait until 1882 to take over control of immigration policy from the states and localities? This phenomenon is especially curious since the control of entry/exit into and across a nation’s borders is so fundamental to the very definition of a state. Is it because the American state was too weak to do so, or specifically that the national government lacked administrative capacity to handle immigration until the late twentieth century? I argue that the delay of the national government taking over immigration was not due to a lack of administrative capacity. Instead, there were regionally specific reasons that the states preferred to retain control of migration policy. In the northern seaboard states, the priority was excluding the poor, sick, and criminal, who, if admitted, would pose social and economic burdens on those states. In the South, the motivation was preserving slavery and guarding against slave insurrections. The national government could not take over migration policy until a series of political events uncoupled slavery and migration policy in the South, and the federal government assumed financial responsibility for screening poor, sick, and criminal immigrants in the North.