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Description de l’éditeur
Named a Most Anticipated Book of May 2020 by The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Kirkus Reviews.
A sweeping history of the twentieth-century battle to reform American immigration laws that set the stage for today’s roiling debates.
The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is at the core of the American narrative. But in 1924, Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing arrivals from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning those from nearly all of Asia.
In a riveting narrative filled with a fascinating cast of characters, from the indefatigable congressman Emanuel Celler and senator Herbert Lehman to the bull-headed Nevada senator Pat McCarran, Jia Lynn Yang recounts how lawmakers, activists, and presidents from Truman through LBJ worked relentlessly to abolish the 1924 law. Through a world war, a refugee crisis after the Holocaust, and a McCarthyist fever, a coalition of lawmakers and activists descended from Jewish, Irish, and Japanese immigrants fought to establish a new principle of equality in the American immigration system. Their crowning achievement, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, proved to be one of the most transformative laws in the country’s history, opening the door to nonwhite migration at levels never seen before—and changing America in ways that those who debated it could hardly have imagined.
Framed movingly by her own family’s story of immigration to America, Yang’s One Mighty and Irresistible Tide is a deeply researched and illuminating work of history, one that shows how Americans have strived and struggled to live up to the ideal of a home for the "huddled masses," as promised in Emma Lazarus’s famous poem.
Journalist Yang chronicles four decades of American immigration legislation and reform in her sober and well-researched debut. Noting that between 1880 and WWI, only 1% of new arrivals were turned away from U.S. ports of entry, Yang explores how the rise of eugenics in the early 20th century helped anti-immigration activists to win passage of the 1924 Johnson Reed Act, which set quotas drastically reducing immigration from southern and eastern Europe, "banned Asian immigration altogether," and required prospective arrivals to obtain American visas before departing their countries of origin. The new law, according to Yang, cut the total number of arrivals by more than half. As the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany in the 1930s, quotas and "anti-Semitic prejudices" within the U.S. State Department shut the doors to many Jewish refugees. After WWII, President Harry Truman's executive order allowing private charities to sponsor refugees "became central to the U.S. immigration system," and in 1965, Sen. Ted Kennedy played a key role in the legislative effort to replace quotas with a cap system that prioritized family reunification. Yang's comprehensive and easy-to-follow record of a crucial period in the evolution of U.S. immigration policy sheds light on the political, cultural, and historical considerations behind this contentious issue. Readers seeking insights into contemporary proposals to reform the system will find plenty in this lucid account.