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date: 18 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In legal scholarship on immigration, as in public discourse, we often take for granted the normative and conceptual priority of nation state borders—as though borders were here first, and migrants came second. But people have been migrating since long before the establishment of nation state borders. European imperialism was sustained by mass migration. The British imperial system consisted of the voluntary migration of settlers and administrators as well as the involuntary or forced migration of enslaved Africans, Asian “coolies,” and criminal convicts. U.S. settler imperialism continues to effect mass displacements. Because the conventional nation-state framing of immigration law often obscures the imperial histories that have shaped the inequalities that now compel migration, this chapter asserts that scholars of immigration law and history have much to gain by displacing the nation-state framework, through which questions about immigration law and policy are raised, and replacing it with an expanded framework of the imperial.

Keywords: borders, migration, imperialism, empire, settler colonialism, race, Asian exclusion, indigenous, critical race studies, postcolonialism.

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