Review: “Not Fit for Our Society” by Peter Schrag

I just finished reading Not Fit for Our Society by Peter Schrag. This book basically does two things: 1) it gives a descriptive overview of the various eras of anti-immigrant restrictionism throughout U.S. history, and 2) shows how the concerns, rhetoric, and themes of the restrictionists in each of these eras have remained largely constant, even as the target has changed (anti-French, anti-Chinese, anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, anti-Latino, etc.). The first few chapters and the last few chapters were the most interesting, while those in the middle tended to drag a bit. The most useful (to me) was chapter 6 which gives a concise overview of the major debates, events, and individuals in the immigration debate since the 1980s. The author also includes a chapter with a recommendation for how to best approach immigration reform in the 21st century.

The book was published in early 2010, so the narrative essentially ends around the 2008 presidential election. There are several important updates on the immigration debate that ought to be included in a subsequent edition. These ought to include: 1) immigration dropping off the political radar from 2008-present, replaced with the economy and health care reform, 2) the rise of anti-Muslim nativism, 3) the virtual halt of immigration inflow in mid-2007 with the economic downturn, 4) the failure of the DREAM Act to pass in 2010, even with a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate (5 Democrats voted against), and 6) the Obama administration’s surprising and inexplicable increase in immigrant crackdowns, deportations, ICE raids, and complete lack of enthusiasm for pursuing a comprehensive immigration reform agenda.

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