Immigration, particularly illegal immigration from Mexico, is a very timely and controversial subject. However, the topic is really old as American itself. Despite being immigrants themselves, early Americans had the same concerns over immigrants and their cultural assimilation, language, access to employment, repatriation of money, and use of social services that some people have today. This book looks at immigration from Europe to the United States from 1880 - 1930 and not just any type of immigration, but return immigration. That is, it looks at people who came to America only for some period of time, and eventually returned to their home countries.
Among the most salient arguments made by the author is that America of yesteryear was not the land of opportunity in the way we might imagine poor immigrants viewed it. It was the land of opportunity in that they could come, make a quick buck, and return home rich, famous, and powerful. Many people did not come here for our freedom and ideals as we might like to believe. The author gives a lot of evidence to support this thesis but also delves into the sociology behind the raw economic facts and discusses how this affected emotions and relationships. These various perspectives are what make the book so engrossing.
This topic may seem dull to some people, but the book is written with a very readable tone and is organized in such a way that it is easy for someone with a very narrow interest to find a particular bit of useful information without reading the whole book. There are also hundreds of references for those who may be doing research or are simply interested in more information. I have a research interest in migration and that's why I picked up this particular book, but I would recommend this to anyone who has even a minor interest in recent immigration debates and wants a more historical perspective on the discussion.
What did you think of this review?