Reece Jones, White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall – Beacon, September 2021
The first book to show that racial exclusion was behind all of the United States’ immigration laws–from Chinese Exclusion through the Trump presidency.
While many Americans believe there have always been rules about who could enter the country, the reality is that the first national immigration law was not passed until 1875, ninety-nine years after the Declaration of Independence. As the first non-white Chinese immigrants arrived, Congress passed laws to ban them. In each era that followed, the fear of “the great replacement” of whites with non-white immigrations drove the push for more restrictions. Although the US is often mythologized as a nation of immigrants, the mainstreaming of anti-immigrant politics by Trump in 2016 was a reversion to the ugly norm of the past.
In White Borders, Jones reveals that since the arrival of the first slave ship in 1619, the English Colonies that became the US were based on the dual foundation of open immigration for whites from Northern Europe and racial exclusion of slaves from Africa, Native Americans, and, eventually, immigrants from other parts of the world. He exposes the connections between the Chinese Exclusion laws of the 1880s, the “Keep America American” nativism of the 1920s, and the “Build the Wall” chants of the 2010s. Along the way, we meet a bizarre cast of characters such as John Tanton, Cordelia Scaife May, and Stephen Miller who have moved fringe ideas about “white genocide” and “race suicide” into mainstream political discourse. This exposé proves that while immigration crackdowns are justified as protecting American jobs and workers, they have always been about saving the fleeting idea of a white America.
“White Borders is a searing indictment of the US immigration restrictions from Chinese Exclusion through the Trump presidency. This powerful and meticulously argued book reveals that while immigration crackdowns are justified as protecting jobs and workers, they’ve always been about saving and protecting the racist idea of a white America.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist
“With eloquent prose and masterful storytelling, Reece Jones narrates the hard history of immigration policies of the US settler colonial state that was founded and rooted in white supremacy, from Chinese exclusion to the border wall.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States