In One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924–1965
(W. W. Norton & Company, 2020), Jia Lynn Yang
recounts the personalities and debates that brought about the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which forms the foundation for modern U.S. immigration policy. Undoing the xenophobic national origins quotas enshrined in the 1924 Immigration Act required an epic, forty-year struggle against nativist concerns about the economy and national security, as well as racist and anti-Semitic impulses that continue to plague American society today.
Drawing on key scholarly monographs as well as her own research in archives like the LBJ Presidential Library and the Library of Congress, Yang’s narrative is full of larger-than-life characters. Some, like Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy, will be familiar with readers. Others, like Congressman Emmanuel Celler of New York and Japanese American Citizens League national secretary Mike Masaoka, are well-known but less well understood. By following their negotiations through the halls of Congress and the White House, Yang captures the contingency that shows how difficult and improbable immigration reform was to achieve. Yang concludes by issuing a call for immigrants and their descendants to “articulate a new vision for the current era, one that embraces rather than elides how far America has drifted from its European roots.”.
Jia Lynn Yang
is the deputy national editor at The New York Times
Ian Shin is assistant professor of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan.