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Drawing on readings and lectures account for both the sources of continuity and change in U.S. immigration policy between the founding of the Republic and the mid-1920s. What were the initial conditions that shaped the path that immigration policy followed during this period? How and why did these initial conditions influence the outcome of later controversies, leading efforts to restrict immigration from Europe to fail during the 19th century, but leading efforts to restrict migration from China and Japan to succeed? What subsequent exogenous changes led to the restriction of migration from Europe in the mid-1920s?

chapter one





Nineteenth century democracy needs no more complete vindica?


tion for its existence than the fact that it has kept for the white


race the best portions of the new world?s surface, temperate


America and Australia. Had these regions been under aristocratic


governments, Chinese immigration would have been encouraged


precisely as the slave trade is encouraged of necessity by any


slave-? olding oligarchy, and the results would have been even




more fatal to the white race, but the democracy, with the clear


instinct of race selfishness, saw the race foe, and kept out the


dangerous alien. The presence of the negro in our Southern


States is a legacy from the time when we were ruled by a trans-?


oceanic aristocracy. The whole civilization of the future owes a


debt of gratitude greater than can be expressed in words to that


democratic polity which has kept the temperate zones of the new


and the newest worlds a heritage for the white people.


?? ssistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy Theodore Roosevelt, 1897








uan Bautista Alberdi, the leading Argentine intellectual


of the nineteenth century, famously observed that ?in the


Americas, to govern is to populate.?1 Open immigration policies in the nineteenth century allowed nearly anyone to walk off the


docks in Buenos Aires, Havana, New York, or Halifax. By the 1930s,


intellectuals from Argentina to Cuba had attached a qualifier to his


dictum: ?to govern is to populate well.?2 The governments of every independent country in the Americas created the legal and bureaucratic


machinery to cull only ?ethnically desirable? human stock from the millions yearning to breathe free.


The United States led the way in creating racist policies beginning


with its nationality laws in 1790 and its immigration laws in 1803. 3


In his book American Ideals written in 1897, just four years before he


became president, Theodore Roosevelt praised the democratic wisdom


of the United States and the other Anglophone settler societies for


selecting immigrants on racial grounds. Like most contemporary leaders,


Roosevelt believed that Chinese deserved exclusion because they were


racially inferior and incapable of governing themselves in a democracy.



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Culling the Masses



He warned against the dangers of business interests attempting to attract


Chinese immigrants to work as indentured servants. In Roosevelt?s view,


Chinese were only one step up from the descendants of black slaves,


which plantation owners had imported to the detriment of free white


workers. Democracies needed racist policies to protect their citizens and


democracy itself.4


Roosevelt would have been astonished to learn that a century later, a


nearly universal consensus took it for granted that democracy and racism


cannot coexist. Racial selection of immigrants had become taboo. An


academic study of major liberal-? emocratic countries of immigration in




1995 declared that the ?boundaries of legitimate discussion of immigration policy are narrow, precluding argument over the ethnic composition


of migrant streams, and subjecting those who criticize liberal policies to


charges of racism.?5 The ubiquitous racist immigration and nationality


laws that Roosevelt cherished had all but disappeared, beginning with


Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Cuba in the late 1930s and early 1940s


and finally extending to the United States and Canada in the 1960s and


Australia in the 1970s. While immigration policies continue to have a


differential impact on particular national-? rigin groups, and discriminao


tory practices persist, the history of the region plainly shows that policies


have dramatically moved in the direction of non-? acial selection.




Why have governments throughout the Americas turned against select?




?ng immigrants by race and national origins? Why did that process take


longer to unfold in the most liberal-? emocratic countries? Against the




prevailing wisdom, we argue that the anti-? acist turn was not a product




of liberal ideology or democracy. Liberalism and the institutions of


democracy actually promoted racist immigration policies in nineteenth-?


century North America, as did populist politics in Latin America in the


early 1930s. The demise of racist immigration law began in Latin


America in the late 1930s, spread to North America in the 1960s, and


had become the norm throughout most major liberal-? emocratic cound




tries of immigration by the 1980s. By analyzing the interaction between


domestic and international politics in countries of immigration through?




? ut the Western Hemisphere, we unexpectedly find that geopolitical factors were the main drivers of the demise of racial selection, as externally


oriented elites overcame the public?s racist preferences.



Racist Democracy


What is the relationship between liberalism, democracy, and racism?


Simply put, democratic input?? hether in its liberal or populist variations??




historically has been linked to racist immigration policy in the Americas.


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The classical liberalism of the mid-? ineteenth century exalted the libn


erties of citizens and economic activity unhindered by the state. In its


ideal form, liberalism meant freedom of movement, exchange, and political participation. A representative system of government was the means


to foster these principles. Rights were inherent and equally applicable to


all autonomous moral individuals within nation-? tates.7 Liberalism




influenced the development of political institutions throughout North


America and Europe. It also shaped the aspirations of many Latin


American elites, even when liberal institutions were not as robust as in


the United States. The liberal doctrines of political participation expressed


in the U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776) and Constitution (1787),


the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1793), and the Spanish


C?diz Constitution (1812) had a broad impact in Latin America.


Constitutions across the region copied many of their institutions and


principles of liberty and self-? overnment.8 To be sure, there have been




many versions of liberalism in different historical contexts, and the


bundle of principles has sometimes loosened. Moreover, the term has


been appropriated by politicians to take on numerous meanings, such as


the widespread contemporary usage by U.S. conservatives in which liberal is a slur meaning statist, the opposite of the classical sense of the


term. Despite these conceptual difficulties with liberalism, comparisons


of political processes across many times and places require a common


analytical vocabulary. In this book, we think of liberalism in the classical sense following the set of principles articulated above. We take an


etic approach that uses liberalism as a standardized concept, rather than


an emic approach of charting the shifting meanings of liberalism as it is


used by politicians in different contexts.


Our perspective draws on political scientist Robert Dahl?s 1971 classification of regimes by levels of ?societal inclusiveness? and political


?contestation.? Inclusiveness refers to levels of participation by the public


in governance, typically through electoral or corporatist mechanisms.


Contestation refers to the openness of government to public demands.


Liberal democracy, what Dahl calls ?polyarchy,? is at one end of the


spectrum of political regimes, with a comparatively high level of inclusion through universal suffrage and openness to public contestation by


means of a representative form of government in which interest groups


can contest government decisions. The United States throughout most of


its history and Canada after becoming a self-? overning dominion have




been examples of liberal democracy. Corporatism or populism has a


high level of formal inclusion, but few avenues for contestation of central


government decisions. Whether the channeling of interests from below is


direct, as in the U.S. case, or managed by populists like L?zaro C?rdenas


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Culling the Masses



in Mexico and Get?lio Vargas in Brazil in the 1930s or Juan Per?n in


Argentina in the 1940s, the result is the selection of immigrants by ethnic




The gap between abstract principles of universal equality and the conjoined histories of liberalism and racism in practice has long puzzled


political observers. Analysts have explained this puzzle in three ways: as


a temporary anomaly linking two phenomena that are generally incompatible, as a case of inherently linked ideologies, or as an instance of


distinct traditions that happen to coincide in particular contexts.


A conventional, whiggish account is that liberalism and its expression


as democracy have experienced an evolution toward ethnic universalism


in the law. Liberal democracies, on this view, have purified themselves of


a ?resilient pre-? odern heritage? with the extension of equal rights from




propertied white men to all white men, then to ethnic minorities, and


finally to women. The presence of racism is an anomaly to be worked out


of the body politic.9 Scholars have also argued that incompatibility


between liberal democracy and racism extends to immigrant selection.


The end of ethnic selection in immigration law in liberal democracies


like the United States and Australia is attributable to the ?exigencies of


liberal stateness as such? and represented ?the unfolding of the internal


logic of the core values of liberal democracy.?10


In contrast, scholars with a critical perspective on race have argued


that the historical record tells a fundamentally different story, which


shows that liberalism and racism are inherently linked. Racism has been


the cultural frame that allowed inferences about people?s morality and


capacity for democratic participation from their appearance or cultural


practices. Political philosopher Charles Mills has argued that liberalism


is an expression of European/white Enlightenment ideals built on the


exclusion of nonwhites.11 The basic terms of eligibility for the liberal


social contract?? ho constitutes a political person?? ave been racially






determined. In political systems in which sovereignty is derived from


below, the only rationale for excluding parts of the population from


democratic participation is that they lack personhood and hence are


naturally incapable of self-? overnment. The notion that Catholics, south?






? rn and eastern Europeans, blacks, and Asians were not fit for democracy was used later to restrict their immigration. John Stuart Mill warned


that people characterized by ?extreme passiveness, and ready submission to tyranny? were unfit for representative government.12 Mill wrote


to the New York Times in 1870 to warn that Chinese immigration could


permanently harm the ?more civilized and improved portion of man??


kind.?13 Similarly, in Australia, the main architects of colonial liberalism



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excluded Chinese based on the argument that only Anglo-? axons were




fit for self-? overnment.14 Scientific racism in France, Latin America, and




the United States offered an authoritative foundation for this exclusionary rationale. Historian George Fredrickson has argued that the rev?


olutionary emphasis on equal rights of citizens required ?special reason


for exclusion? and that ?the one exclusionary principle that could be


readily accepted by civic nationalists was biological unfitness for full


citizenship.?15 Building on Louis Hartz?s argument that U.S. liberalism


could only sustain anti-? lack racism by defining blacks as naturally infeb


rior, Paul Lauren argues that ?racism actually increased as democracy


expanded? in the nineteenth century. Under Jacksonian democracy, the


forced separation between Indians and whites increased, and the line


between blacks and whites hardened.16 Desmond King locates racial


selection of immigrants in liberalism as well.17 The link between scientific rationales for assessing political personhood reached its height


between the two world wars. Writing about this ?dark side of democracy? and nationalism, Anthony Marx and Michael Mann have shown


that even when elites acquiesce to demands from below by extending


citizenship rights to a widening circle of groups, they do so by maintain?




?ng exclusions against the most despised outsiders or by killing them.18


A third group of scholars argue that liberalism and racism are long


coexisting traditions with distinct rationales and that it is therefore difficult to reach a final judgment about the nature of liberal politics and


racial equality.19 Sociologist Benjamin Ringer has argued that the main


exemplar of liberalism in the Americas?? he United States?? as founded






on and perpetuated an ideological dualism between the American creed


and the racial creed. ?America?s historic treatment of its racial minorities


has been both an expression and product of the dialectal tension and


struggle between these two models,? he notes. 20 Ringer goes on to discuss how this duality has expressed itself in policy. Relatedly, political


scientist Rogers Smith has shown that white racism in the United States??


what he calls ascriptive inequality?? as been a tradition in its own right




with theological and scientific rationales. Smith criticizes accounts of


American political ideology that stress its liberal democratic features at


the expense of its ?inegalitarian ascriptive ones.? This implies taking a


?multiple traditions? view of U.S. politics. For two-? hirds of U.S. hist


tory, the majority of the population was explicitly excluded from citizenship based on ascriptive criteria such as race and sex. Elimination of


those criteria has not followed the straight line toward greater openness


that the conventional story describes. Immigration law was much more


racially restrictive in 1924 than it was in 1860. 21 Carol Horton?s history



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Culling the Masses



of the relationship between racism and different forms of U.S. liberalism


similarly concludes that these strands have coexisted but that there is no


definitive connection between them. 22


Liberalism was less hegemonic in Latin America than in the United


States, given the strength of conservativism in many settings, but Latin


American countries also had multiple traditions that often included different forms of liberalism and racism. Racial distinctions were disavowed


in constitutions but pervasive in everyday life. 23 An overarching lesson is


that some forms of liberalism could coexist with racist policies, which


came to the fore or receded depending on struggles among interest


groups and the extent to which politics was built on a mass base.


How well does each of these three perspectives explain ethnic selection in immigration law? The whiggish and critical race perspectives


leave unresolved a double historical puzzle. First, if racism is incompatible with liberalism in practice, as the received wisdom maintains, why


did liberal democracies implement racially discriminatory immigration


and nationality policies before other countries and then lag behind


undemocratic countries in doing away with such policies? The view of


racism as an anomaly to be worked out in the fullness of history?s progression to a liberal state of universal equality is empirically wrong. As


we show in Chapter 3, the leading hemispheric exemplar of liberal


democracy pioneered and persisted in the application of ethnic exclusions. Moreover, as Rogers Smith points out, there was no linear progression toward universalism. Second, if liberalism is inherently racist,


as critical race theorists maintain, why have the most egregious historical discriminators?? he United States and Canada?? llowed the transt




formation of their populations by letting in large numbers of formerly


excluded groups? We show that liberalism is not inherently linked to


racism, as demonstrated by the demise of ethnic selectivity in immigration laws since World War II and the profound transformation of the


most racially selective polities.


The distinct traditions explanation shows how ostensibly contradictory


ideologies have coexisted but has little to conclude about the patterns of


connections among them. Contra Smith, we show that liberal democratic


processes were not simply a distinct tradition, but actually encouraged


the formation of racist policies for long swathes of history, even as this


connection loosened in the latter twentieth century. The coexisting traditions account also leaves unspecified the conditions under which one particular tradition becomes more salient and influential. By looking inward


at the United States alone, it ignores a broader set of factors outside U.S.



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borders that affect the political process within. Organizations and relationships extending beyond national borders strongly determine when the


tradition of racial universalism becomes dominant.


We argue that the long-? erm relationship between liberalism and




racism is best explained as one of ?elective affinity,? a concept used by


sociologist Max Weber to describe a relationship that is nondeterministic and probabilistic and that involves choices by those it links. 24


Liberalism has had a greater affinity with ethnic selectivity than with


universalism, but there is no iron law connecting them. Opportunities


on the world political stage and the accessibility of organizational means


to less powerful countries upset the affinity between these ideologies.


The argument that liberal democracy is fundamentally incompatible


with ethnic selection of immigrants suffers from a serious methodological problem that has obscured the relationship between racism and liber?




? lism in actual historical practice. Sociologist Christian Joppke?s approach


of examining only liberal-? emocratic countries leads to the claim that




the end of racial discrimination in immigration policy began as a domes?




? ic issue in the United States and Australia and then spread elsewhere. 25


On this view, the United States appears to be a leader in the removal of


ethnic selection in the mid-? 960s, along with Canada, paving the way




for Australia (1973), Britain (1981), and New Zealand (1986).26 The long


history of racial exclusion that Joppke documents ended as democracies


worked out the kinks in their systems. The focus of such studies, however, is primarily on western liberal democracies in the second half of the


twentieth century, which yields a skewed picture of which countries


modeled the move away from ethnic selectivity.


By taking a longer view and comparing countries with greater variation in their degree of political inclusion and contestation, a far different


image emerges. The United States was the leader in developing explicitly


racist policies of nationality and immigration. Self-? overning colonies in




Australia and southern Africa joined the United States and Canada in


pushing Chinese restrictions in the late nineteenth century. Liberal


democracies such as the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Australia,


New Zealand, and the United Kingdom were then laggards in doing


away with their explicit ethnic discrimination, long after undemocratic


Latin American countries such as Uruguay (1936), Chile (1936), Paraguay


(1937), Cuba (1942), and Argentina (1949). 27 Greater public participation in politics has promoted racist policies. Proclamations extolling the


virtues of government for the people rang out to justify slamming the


gates on racial outsiders.



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Culling the Masses



A Three-?Dimensional Model


If the purification of liberalism does not explain the rise and relative


demise of ethnic selection in so many countries over the course of two


centuries, what does? Understanding the causes of change across time


and place is the core challenge for comparative-? istorical social science.




It is difficult enough to understand how policies are shaped by the politics of today. Numerous theories of the state, law, and policymaking vie


to establish which factors best explain policy outcomes. Historically


minded scholars remind us that policies today are shaped by the policies


of yesteryear as well.28 To add further complexity, policies here are shaped


by policies there. We build on the work of comparativist scholars who


are wrestling with how to explain major shifts in law and policy by


offering a three-? imensional analytical model attending to the interacd


tions between the national and the international levels over long periods


of time.


Many excellent studies of immigration look for explanations of policy


within a country?s boundaries. Hannah Arendt famously observed:


?sovereignty is nowhere more absolute than in matters of emigration,


naturalization, nationality, and expulsion.?29 When governments decide


whom to let in and whom to keep out, they literally define the community that makes a nation-? tate. One might expect such policies to be




self-? ontained, as political actors within each country decide which forc


eigners are worthy to become members of the national club.30 Immigration


laws are shaped by national ideologies of immigration promulgated by


governing elites, such as the notion that the United States is ?a nation of


immigrants? or that France has a ?republican tradition? of nationhood


that welcomes immigrants willing to shed their ethnic differences. 31


National idiosyncrasies clearly matter in the development of national


policy, but when viewed in a broader hemispheric context, national cases


are not as exceptional as they first appear. Every country in the Americas


was at least an aspiring ?nation of immigrants,? and several succeeded.


The number of countries in the Americas practicing formal negative


ethnic selection rose during the second half of the nineteenth century


and reached a peak by the early 1930s before rapidly falling off. Narrowly


focused studies of a particular country that ignore events elsewhere


cannot explain why selection patterns tended to converge across cases.


In his path-? reaking work on ethnic selection of immigrants, Christian




Joppke consistently rejects arguments about the causal importance of


international norms or mechanisms for spreading them. ?The focus on


domestic mechanisms (including foreign-? olicy interests) is not to deny





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that, especially today, the prohibition of racial discrimination is first and


foremost an international human-? ights norm,? he argues. ?However,




initially it was not this way?.?.?.??n]ot an international regime but domestic




society pressures led to the demise of settler states? ethnoracial immigration policies.?32


While it is true that all policymaking in sovereign states, including the


conduct of foreign policy, becomes instantiated at the national level,


arguing by definition that foreign policy considerations are part of


?domestic mechanisms? obscures processes outside of the state?s boundaries that affect the development of national policies. Discursively


sweeping the international origins of immigration policies under the


analytical rug hides the origins of change. Studying a broader set of


cases and taking more seriously the interaction of international and


domestic sources of policy shows that an international anti-? acist norm




was being established in parts of Latin America and Asia long before the


Anglophone countries came around to the growing consensus.


Even many comparative studies tend to contrast nation-? tates as if




they were discrete, unrelated units. Variation in policies is attributed to


variation within each case, without fully considering how the actions of


one country affect others. 33 To address these deficiencies, a growing


number of scholars have shown how the policies of other countries of


immigration and emigration, in addition to domestic struggles, fundamentally shape national immigration policies. Research into the connections among the laws of countries of immigration have...


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