Immigration Law and Society


Welcome to this dedicated webpage, designed for all students who've been assigned Immigration Law and Society (Polity, 2018), as well as for professors and instructors using this book for their own courses.  I will be updating this page regularly to offer suggestions for all readers, and I would welcome your suggestions as well.  If you see a typo, or if you have suggestions for further readings and other academic work, please send a note to  

Around 2013, Jonathan Skerrett sent me an email asking if I could recommend some people to write a single volume on Immigration Law and Society for Polity’s series on Immigration and Society.  This series had featured already scholars whose work I’ve admired, including new books by Philip Yang, Nazli Kabria, Min Zhou, Leisy Abrego, Cecilia Menjivar, and Christian Joppke.  If you search for “Polity Press Immigration and Society,” you’ll see this impressive list of titles and authors; can also just click here:  I would recommend all of them.  

After several more emails, Mr. Skerrett got me to take this project. Because this book was based on a class that I’ve taught for many years, and because we wanted other scholars to be able to use this book for their own courses, we agreed that the book should be manageable over ten to fifteen weeks. The book should also be accessible enough for an incoming college student, and ideally, the book should be amusing enough for parents to read along with their new college student.  I got this idea because on my campus in early November, it’s Parents and Family Weekend, and I see lots of parents in my lectures that week.  A few of these parents have asked for the readings related to the lectures—now that this book is in the world, I will have something to give them.  I also have daughters headed for college in the near future, and so I wrote this book with people in that age group in mind.  Thus, unlike the other books that I've published, I wrote this one for a much broader audience, and although it's not quite a textbook, I wanted to offer an extended review and synthesis of the best scholarship in immigration law in the social sciences. 

Because I had to shave off nearly half of the original work, I did lose some parts that I'd liked, and so this website will contain those missing parts, plus other materials for advanced students and scholars in the field.  For professors, teaching assistants, and teachers who will assign this book for your classes, I'd suggest that they use the essays below for discussion sections, if you're offering one of those large lecture classes that might be common at a large private or public university.  For advanced students who are reading this book for an upper division class, the essays can serve as supplemental readings for the book itself, and the essays offer ideas for further lines of research and intellectual inquiry. 

These essays are shorter, they're addressed to younger readers in college, and they can all help us avoid those awkward blank spaces during discussion sections in the first year of college, where we sometimes discover that our students didn't actually do the assigned readings.  These essays are easier and shorter, and I hope that many students will find them fun, even though some will find them disturbing.  Trust me, after a few of these essays, you'll never see Oompa Loompas or your classmates from abroad in the same way.  

I will post all of these essays by Fall 2018, then update them from time to time.  

For an essay about themes in the Preface, please click here.  This essay describes further how this book draws from sociolegal approaches to law and legal theory.

For an essay about themes in Chapter 1, The Two Revolutions, please click here.  This one considers basic themes in human migration and in communications technologies; it also asks students to consider how they and their families came to specific places in their lives, including to college.

For an essay about themes in Chapter 2, The Kinetic Nation, please click here.  This essay considers how the "past" is not even past--in American art and popular culture, stories about being over-run by foreigners, stories of enslavement, and other upsetting themes are common and recurring.  This essay has Oompa Loompas, Pixar movies, and lots of science fiction.

For an essay about themes in Chapter 3, The Immigration Act of 1965, please click here.  This essay is about my family, about my late mother and now my children, and how our lives were shaped by the Immigration Act of 1965. 

For an essay about themes in Chapter 4, The Multiracial State, please click here.  This essay is about the difficulties of living in, and managing, a diverse, multiracial, and multicultural society.  

For an essay about themes in Chapter 5, Common Wealth, please click here.  This essay discusses the relationship between modern states and their citizens, between the United States and people considered "unfit" for American citizenship.  We explore the tendency to help the least well off, as well as the troubling desires to exclude and to eliminate them from our communities.  

For an essay about themes in Chapter 6, The Privileged Classes, please click here.  What does the world look like, for those who are privileged, for whom immigration rules have encouraged rather than discouraged?  What should you do with your life?

For an essay about themes in Chapter 7, Out of Status, please click here.  This essay relates to my other scholarly work in late 19th and early 20th century legal history.  Fugitive slaves, unlawful Asian immigrants, and contemporary "undocumented immigrants" have a lot in common--their experiences suggest that "illegal status" is a recurring problem in American law and society, not really a new phenomenon.  "Unlawful status" remains jarring, disorienting, and debilitating--that it's not "new" doesn't diminish its terrible impact on immigrant families.

For an essay about themes in Chapter 8, Local, State, and Federal, please click here.  We live in strange times, when the President of the United States behaves in ways that are not exactly "democratic," and when many jurisdictions have pursued contradictory policies toward immigrants, especially unlawful immigrants.  This essay offers a closer case study of political developments in California over the last two decades to explain these patterns.

For an essay about themes in Chapter 9, The Great Divides, please click here.  The University of California is one of the most diverse and complex institutions in the world, and the campuses each enroll a wide range of students.  This essay is, in part, about what it feels like to teach here.

For an essay about themes in Chapter 10, The Future of American Migrations, please click here.  This essay is about mass incarceration and mass deportation, climate change and migrant caravans, and about the diasporas that we've create, as well as the ones that have been created and will be created in the wake of a changing climate.