Nation of Immigrants, Historians of Migration and A Part and Apart: Asian American and Immigration History

Nation of Immigrants, Historians of Migration and A Part and Apart: Asian American and Immigration History

In Nation of Migrants, Historians of Migration by Adam Goodman, the author focuses on the differences between migration and immigration and their significance. At the beginning of his text he states that the “melting pot” cliches are very common and that they reinforce false stereotypes of immigrants and the United States. Goodman explains how the paradigm of the nation of immigrants within academics gave European immigrants a special place in U.S history excluding non-European immigrants and African Americans, as well as Native Americans who were there before any other group of people. He then talks about how over the last two decades historians have been trying to dismantle the nation of immigrants myth and focus on other origin stories of people who migrated to America such as Latin Americans, Asians, and other non-Europeans as participants in US history. On page 9 Goodman mentions that using ‘migration’ rather than ‘immigration’ as the analytical tool in teaching and writing about the nation’s history helps people see the United States for what it really is; “a nation of migrants, not a nation of immigrants” (9). I think this is good to focus on because ‘migration’ includes trans-regional as well as transcontinental movement, while ‘immigration’ means to move to a new country from their original country.  ‘Nation of migrants’ is a better description of our nation because it includes the people who moved across the continent and not just the immigrants from across oceans. This is important to recognize because America truly is a diverse country whose origins don’t only come from Europeans, but from other races and ethnicities as well. Then, Goodman states something interesting. While the US recognizes itself as the nation of migrants, it is also a nation of exclusion, internment, forced internal migration, and deportation. We’ve seen exactly this being done to African Americans, the Japanese, Mexicans, and other groups across the country throughout its history (11). This is unfortunately true. Towards the end the author adds that studying migration in a global context helps us better understand US diplomatic and international history, and concludes that by assuming that we know everything about migration and migrants, that we are doing them, ourselves, and the study a disservice.

 

In A Part and Apart: Asian American and Immigration History by Erika Lee, the author’s main argument is that Asian exclusion laws helped to transform the United States into a “gatekeeping” nation that would affect all immigrants. She begins her discourse by discussing the differing views on immigration and its boundaries from historians such as George Sanchez, Rudi Vecoli, Donna Gabbacia, Jon Gjerde, David Roedigger and others. Then, Lee talks about how immigration historians and Asian Americanists today are adopting definitions and framework to discuss the various ways in which people migrate. Lee mentions Christiane Harzig and Dirk Hoeder who explain that migration can be multi-directional, temporary or permanent, voluntary or forced (34). This broader frame work allows scholars to look at “both ends of mobility,” and see what the effects are between the “sending and receiving” societies. On page 35 the author writes briefly about Asian immigration history beginning in 1565 when they came over from the Philippines with the Spaniards, and ending with post World War II Asian immigration to the US due to American presence in Asia and the Cold War. Towards the end on page 39 Lee quotes Peggy Levitt who stated that immigrants belong to several communities at once while becoming part of the United States and staying connected to their ancestral home at the same time.

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