The “Future Immense”: Race And Immigration In The Multiracial U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1880-1936
TL;DR: Lim et al. as discussed by the authors examined the multiple meanings of citizenship and belonging that emerged in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from 1880 to 1936, focusing on El Paso, Texas, the region's leading hub of economic activity and immigration during this period.
Abstract: THE “FUTURE IMMENSE": RACE AND IMMIGRATION IN THE MULTIRACIAL U.S.-MEXICO BORDERLANDS, 1880-1936 JULIAN LIM, Ph.D. CORNELL UNIVERSITY 2013 This study examines the multiple meanings of citizenship and belonging that emerged in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from 1880 to 1936. The project focuses on El Paso, Texas, the region’s leading hub of economic activity and immigration during this period. Locating El Paso at the crossroads of multiple boundaries – among them the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the limits of Jim Crow, which ended where El Paso met the New Mexico Territory line – I trace the movements of Mexican, Chinese, and African-American men and women to the El Paso-Juárez region. This project presents a new study of the multiracial intersections of the borderlands, as diverse people crossed various borders in search of economic opportunities and freedom from popular and institutionalized racism. The project’s purpose is twofold. First, I examine the developments in immigration law and policy that transformed both the United States and Mexico during these years. Analyzing the emergence of racially restrictive immigration policies in Mexico as well as the United States, the project addresses a variety of legal, social, political, and economic changes affecting migration on both sides of the border as well as across it, including the shift from Reconstruction to Jim Crow in the United States, the modernization programs of President Porfirio Díaz and revolution in Mexico, anti-Chinese exclusion campaigns on both sides of the border, and a global economic depression. Second, I show how racialized people used national borders to renegotiate questions about their capacity for “belonging” in the United States and/or Mexico, thereby forcing redefinitions of citizenship and national identity. I argue that although the border harbored multiple perils, it also offered great promise: through it, Mexican, black, and Chinese subjects often challenged the constructions of their non-whiteness and improvised their own democracy. Integrating sources from both regional and national archives in the United States and Mexico, my project demonstrates the unique ways in which marginalized people used their cross-border mobility to blur the lines of state power and identity in the borderlands. Ultimately, however, the project demonstrates the incremental processes of immigration law-making from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, and highlights the ways in which binational immigration laws merged at the border and reshaped multiracial alliances into more discrete, segregated race relations. It presents a legal and social history of how the borderlands underwent a sweeping transformation, whereby the “open borders” of the 1880s hardened into much more racially discriminating boundaries – locally, nationally, and internationally – by the 1930s. In the process, as racial ideologies migrated across national boundaries, it became more difficult for racialized bodies to do the same. And as the United States and Mexico each developed more stringent detention, deportation, and exclusion policies based on race, multiracial relations and people were not only made less visible within the national body politic, but were removed from the boundaries of national identity altogether.