ARC Seminar: Anna Law

Thursday, September 29, 2022

4:00 pm — 5:30 pm

Hybrid (see description for details)

Open to the Public

“Challenging the ‘Official Story' of U.S. Migration Policy History”

Admission Price



Register here to participate in this and other ARC Seminars via Zoom.

Anna O. Law

The project starts with the official story of U.S. migration policy history as portrayed by DHS and works to challenge its historical accuracy. The presentation covers antebellum U.S. migration policy, focusing on the colonial period when mechanisms of sifting migrants were created. These policies and laws were continued through the early republic and antebellum period when states and localities retained virtually exclusive control over the freedom of movement and remain. I argue that in the antebellum period, slavery policy was politically and constitutionally inseparable from broader migration policy. I show that unpopular groups including the foreign and domestic poor and sickly migrants, and free and enslaved Black people faced a subnational patchwork of restrictions on their freedom of movement for over a century. That long period of subnational control ended with the federalization of migration controls in 1882, marked by the federal Chinese Exclusion Act. The presentation ends with some of the contemporary political implications of one’s historical amnesia of antebellum U.S. migration policy history.

Anna O. Law holds the Herbert Kurz Chair in Constitutional Rights at CUNY Brooklyn College.  She is Associate Professor of Political Science and specializes in teaching and researching U.S. constitutional law, U.S. immigration law and policy history. Her publications have appeared in both social science journals and law reviews investigate the interaction between law, legal institutions, politics, and history. Her first book, The Immigration Battle in American Courts (Cambridge University Press, 2010) examined the role of the federal judiciary in U.S. immigration policy.  Her second book, under contract with Oxford University Press, traces the evolution of U.S. antebellum federalism in migration and citizenship policy history. It shows the interconnections between the laws and policies regulating the freedom of movement and remain of European migrants, enslaved and domestic Africans, and Native people

This is a hybrid event. Participants may choose to attend in person at the Graduate Center, room 5318, or online via Zoom. Please register here to receive Zoom connection details.