Outstanding Academic Titles 2020: US Immigration

Select book reviews taken from Choice's 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list, covering US immigration

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight the topic of US immigration.

1. This land is our land: an immigrant’s manifesto
Mehta, Suketu. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019

Hotly debated since Colonial America, human mobility—in all domains of life—has been the subject of innumerable books over the years, but few writers have captured the very essence of immigration. In this timely, powerful, and provoking analysis, Mehta (journalism, NYU), an award-winning writer, vividly details the truths and realities of immigrants. Exposing not only the immigrant story but also the unspoken/underlying forces governing anti-immigrant movements, Mehta masterfully delineates the immigrant journey, struggles, and dreams. Mehta writes from a humanistic standpoint, and he effectively situates immigration within a broader context and reveals contributions of immigrants and their significance to US society. This Land Is Our Land is a must read for all who are interested in better understanding the historical forces shaping immigration law, anti-immigrant movements, and immigrants’ contributions to the US. In the face of extreme anti-immigrant hate across the US, from mainstream America to the White House, Mehta offers a picture of unity, positive transformation, and hope for social change, equality, and justice. 
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2. Baby jails: the fight to end the incarceration of refugee children in America
Schrag, Philip G. California, 2020

Schrag’s book is a must read for anyone interested in the legal and political history of asylum seekers, from the Reagan to the Trump administrations. The book is arranged chronologically, and in the first three chapters Schrag (public interest law, Georgetown Univ.) introduces the 1985 Flores Settlement, which set detention standards for unaccompanied children and allowed for conditions for their release to a relative or sponsor and not necessarily to their biological parent. The chapters that follow focus on congressional actions; the transfer of the care of children in custody from INS to the Office of Refugee Resettlement; amendments to immigration laws; and establishment of the family detention facilities. They also trace the legal challenges couched in the premise that “there is simply no justification for imprisoning children” (p. 93). Embedded throughout are poignant and detailed stories of the struggle of individual activists, lawyers, immigration advocates, and judges. In the final chapter Schrag surveys the Trump Administration’s policies on detention of migrant children, policies that have led to family separation and babies in jails. View on Amazon

3. Border wars: inside Trump’s assault on immigration
Davis, Julie Hirschfeld. by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear Simon & Schuster, 2019

Border Wars traces Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance, which has led to deportations, family separation, and denial of asylum. As Washington correspondents for the New York Times, Davis and Shear had access to sources intimately familiar with anti-immigrant conversations involving aides, advisers, and staffers who work for Trump. The actions of Stephen Miller, Kirstjen Nielsen, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, and Steve Bannon are woven into the text, as are observations of career federal government employees and vivid details of meetings, calls, and conversations with staffers in the Trump administration regarding slashing the number of refugees allowed into the US, the type of construction materials used to build the border wall, the future of DACA, and the Muslim travel ban. Davis and Shear describe disagreements and feuds among staffers close to Trump, and they shed light on how immigration decisions are made by the administration. They also culled material from other sources, including journalistic accounts and books, and these are mentioned in the book’s last chapter. View on Amazon

4. Sanctuary cities: the politics of refuge
Collingwood, Loren. by Loren Collingwood and Benjamin Gonzalez O’Brien Oxford, 2019

In this timely study Collingwood (Univ. of California, Riverside) and Gonzalez O’Brien (San Diego State Univ.) trace the debate over sanctuary cities, starting in the 1980s. The first local sanctuary laws and policies that provided a buffer between local authorities protecting immigrants and federal officials bent on detaining them attracted scant national attention. In recent years public visibility of sanctuary cities has increased dramatically thanks to political maneuvering. Trump and congressional Republicans used the 2015 shooting of Kathryn Steinle by an undocumented immigrant (who was subsequently deemed innocent) to exploit the sanctuary issue, and that chain of events is the basis of this book. Drawing on a wide variety of data—media coverage of the shooting, public opinion, crime figures, and policy making—the authors delineate the dissonance between popular perceptions and verifiable information that has come to define the sanctuary question. Relying on highly charged anecdotal information, conservatives turned sanctuary into a potent political weapon. Collingwood and Gonzalez O’Brien provide considerable evidence to support the claim that influential media and political positioning have distorted the facts to such a degree that finding an efficacious policy outcome is virtually impossible without major demographic and electoral change.
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5Banned: immigration enforcement in the time of Trump
Wadhia, Shoba Sivaprasad. New York University, 2019

This is a timely resource on Trump’s immigration policies, which at this writing are in the news. Wadhia’s intent is to describe and advocate, but the latter is a minor note until the last chapter. In the book’s seven chapters Wadhia (law, Penn State) explains the range of discretion that can be exercised in immigration enforcement, the Trump travel bans and shift in enforcement priorities, deferred action policies, types of speedy deportation, and refugee policy. Wadhia’s explanations of rules are clear, and his citations of statutes, regulations, and executive branch documents will help readers find the original sources easily. Wadhia also draws on 21 interviews with former government officials, immigration attorneys, and individuals directly affected by the changes in immigration policy, but the interviews are more a source of commentary and examples rather than the central data source. Very accessibly written, the book will be a great resource for those with little concrete knowledge of immigration issues in the Trump era.
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