A Documentary and Reference Guide
by Thomas Cieslik, David Felsen, Akis Kalaitzidis
November 2008, 376pp, 8 1/2 x 11
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-34910-2
$103, £80, 90€, A142
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-34911-9
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Intense current controversies over foreign immigration to the United States are deeply rooted in America’s history, as is revealed in this comprehensive and illuminating documentary guide.

The uncomfortable contemporary realities of immigration, enmeshed as they are in economic, human rights, and national security issues, have once again propelled foreign immigration to the United States toward the top of the list of U.S. domestic policy concerns. Three respected authorities on immigration and international affairs here present a carefully calibrated history of U.S. immigration in primary source documents, tracing the roots of the current debate in the history of our profoundly divided and surprisingly cyclical response to foreign immigration. This book documents this national ambivalence, identifying the major waves of immigration and clarifying the ways in which the existing social and political fabric conditioned both the response to the newcomers and their prospects of eventual integration into American society.

Part I introduces the historical record:
• The early days of the Republic, when most immigrants arrived from northern Europe
• The most important wave of immigration to the United States in the country’s history, over 1880-1920, when most immigrants arrived from Asia or from southern and eastern Europe
• Virulent post-World War I anti-immigration sentiment
• The World War II-era absorption of huge numbers of displaced persons fleeing the misery and devastation of Europe
• Transition from a quota system to a preference system
• Heightened debate in the 1980s and 1990s
• The immigration policy repercussions of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Part II takes up special issues in the contemporary immigration debate, including the security debate and immigration, immigration and the U.S. judiciary, the immigration debate and the economy, and the spectrum of public opinion on immigration revealed during the 2008 presidential election campaign. The authors demonstrate that today’s highly polarized immigration reform debate in many respects recapitulates the antagonisms and chaotic policies of the 1980s and 1990s, when Ronald Reagan’s Republican administration implemented an amnesty program while the state of California adopted the punitive Proposition 187.

Paramount in today’s immigration debate, however, are the homeland security concerns rendered acute by the 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. The controversial USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002 are among the documents surveyed in relation to the contemporary immigration debate.


  • General introduction to the historical period or thematic topic of each chapter
  • More than 50 documents, each with notes explaining its context and significance
  • Sidebars featuring historical background notes and intriguing sidelights
  • Further Reading lists presenting print and electronic resources recommended for further study
  • 25 black-and-white illustrations


"Not surprisingly, the contemporary debate over immigration is often shrill and fraught with passion and fear. This new book, therefore, is a welcome contribution because it provides both documents and analysis of the topic. It is divided into 13 chapters with the first eight on historical issues and the last five on the present day debate. The guide is well illustrated, and features useful sidebars, a good bibliography, and an excellent index. Also included are two appendixes--one on key immigration legislation in US history and the other on resources for additional and updated information on all aspects of the immigration issue. This guide will be a valued volume for most public and college libraries that serve high school and undergraduate students. Additionally it will be useful to adults interested in and concerned about the ongoing immigration debate."—Choice, July 1, 2009

"This volume will appeal to a wide range of users, both those searching for historical documents on U.S. immigration as well as the more popular and controversial topics today of homeland security issues and the USA Patriot Act. Undergraduates or those interested in an overview of the history of this ongoing debate may find this compilation useful."—ARBAonline, December 1, 2009

Documentary and Reference Guides

Expertly chosen primary source documents, analytical commentary, and comprehensive study resources present Americans grappling directly with complex social and political issues in ways that have had a deep and lasting impact on contemporary society.

Students often are unaware that hotly contested public debates have deep historical roots. Intended to allow readers to engage with history and discover the development of controversial social and political issues over time, the Documentary and Reference Guides series introduces such issues through carefully chosen primary source documents.

The documents analyzed in these volumes encourage critical thinking, offering fresh perspectives as they sweep away preconceptions and restore immediacy to debates that may have become stale. They encourage students to explore for themselves how important issues came to be framed as they are and to consider how contemporary discussion might advance beyond the assumptions and hardened positions of the past.


  • 50–100 primary source documents, topically and chronologically organized, including excerpts from legislation, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, manifestos, broadcast statements, such controversial writings as Thomas Paine's pamphlets and excerpts from the Federalist Papers, and personal writings, such as letters
  • 15–25 photographs
  • Accessible analysis sections and lively sidebars illuminating documents that are crucial to the subject, but relatively legalistic or technical
  • A Reader's Guide to the Documents and Sidebars, organized by subject, to enable readers to pursue particular lines of inquiry through more than one chapter
  • A comprehensive, annotated, general resources section supporting student research needs
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