Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective

Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective

Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective

Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective


Histories investigating U. S. immigration have often portrayed America as a domestic melting pot, merging together those who arrive on its shores. Yet this is not a truly accurate depiction of the nation's complex connections to immigration. Offering a brand-new global history, Foreign Relations takes a comprehensive look at the links between American immigration and U. S. foreign relations. Donna Gabaccia examines America's relationship to immigration and its debates through the prism of the nation's changing foreign policy over the past two centuries, and she highlights how these ever-evolving dynamics have influenced the lives of individuals moving to and from the United States.

With an emphasis on American immigration during the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century industrial era and the contemporary era of free trade, Gabaccia shows that immigrants were not isolationists who cut ties to their countries of origin or their families. Instead, their relations to America were often in flux and dependent on government policies of the time. She cites a wide range of examples, such as how bilateral commercial treaties of the nineteenth century influenced whether family members might receive passage to America, how families maintained bonds to their countries of origin through the exchange of letters and goods, and how politics on behalf of the mother country could still be fought from across the ocean. Today, U. S. commercial diplomacy in China and NAFTA-era Mexico raises concerns about immigrants once again, and Gabaccia demonstrates that immigration has altered with America's developing geopolitical position in the world.

An innovative history of U. S. immigration, Foreign Relations casts a fresh eye on a compelling and controversial topic.


Policy debates in the United States today treat immigration almost exclusively as a domestic problem that must be solved, somehow, with the passage by Congress of better laws. Americans repeatedly debate what those laws should be. Yet laws that treat immigration as a purely domestic problem are likely to fail. Why? Because immigration is an important, continuous, and contentious relationship between the United States and rest of the world. With this book, I suggest that immigration policies might better be debated from a global rather than a domestic perspective.

Of course, immigration is just one of many connections between the United States and the world, and over the past two decades historians have enthusiastically written transnational, international, and global histories to explore those connections. Unlike many historians who write about the United States from a global perspective, I will not try to analyze or to assess the entire tangle of economic, social, and cultural connections that constitute a global America. I will focus steadfastly on the intersection of transnational linkages created “from below” by immigrants—I will call these “immigrant foreign relations”—and American international or foreign policies, created “from above” by the federal government. Immigrants, much like diplomats and State Department officials in Washington, are deeply concerned with the world beyond U. S. borders. Their interest in their own foreign relations finds expression in the memoirs they write; such accounts most often suggest that the global . . .

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