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Gatekeeping Manhattan: Exclusion, Detention, and the Assisted Return of Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century New York City

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Abstract:

This paper examines immigration control in nineteenth-century New York City. In the 1840s, to deal with the problems arising from the unprecedented influx of immigrants into Manhattan through the port of New York, the state of New York established the Commissioners of Emigration. Although the Commissioners’ chief duty was to provide necessary welfare services to immigrants and protect them from vice and frauds, the Commissioners also conducted the exclusion of immigrants with undesirable characteristics, such as paupers and lunatics, by enforcing passenger law to prohibit their landing. When criminals whose immigration was financed by European municipalities arrived in New York in the 1850s, the mayor ordered the criminal passengers’ detention before landing and ultimately returned them to Europe. Also, while the Commissioners of Emigration did not possess the legal authority to deport abroad immigrants who were already in the state, they regularly sent destitute immigrants back to Europe based on the requests from the immigrants and sometimes boardinghouse keepers who accommodated them. Significantly, despite the pretense of voluntary return, there were cases when the Commissioners of Emigration almost forced immigrant paupers to go back to Europe. In the early 1880s, the state of New York started to deport immigrant paupers and lunatics to their countries of origin at the expense of the state.

By analyzing the activities of the Commissioners of Emigration and the mayors of New York City during the period between the 1850s and the 1880s, this paper reveals the practice of immigration control by an individual state before the age of federal immigration restriction. A number of scholars have explored the evolution of immigration policy in the United States after the Chinese Exclusion in the late nineteenth century, but there is only a limited amount of scholarship on pre-Chinese Exclusion state-level immigration control. Also, while the primary concern of most of the few studies on state policy is its legal aspect, this paper, by focusing on the actual enforcement of immigration policy, approaches the subject from a social perspective and highlights the experiences of both public officials and immigrants.

This paper will prove to be an ideal fit to the conference theme, “Imagination, Reparation, Transformation.” Broadly, it explores how New Yorkers perceived the problems of immigration in the context of increased poverty and a rising crime rate in the city and how such perception was manifested in concrete action against particular immigrants such as paupers, lunatics, and criminals to correct the social and moral wrongs allegedly brought by these immigrants. By examining immigration control in the nation’s biggest immigrant city during middle decades of the nineteenth century, this paper illuminates an early phase of America’s transformation into what one immigration scholar calls a “gatekeeping” nation which would be further developed at the turn of the twentieth century. Finally, by focusing on the themes such as exclusion, deportation, and detention, which are highly relevant to the immigration-related issues in the present time, this paper seeks to provoke active discussion on immigration and American society across disciplines.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509653_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Hirota, Hidetaka. "Gatekeeping Manhattan: Exclusion, Detention, and the Assisted Return of Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century New York City" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, Oct 20, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509653_index.html>

APA Citation:

Hirota, H. , 2011-10-20 "Gatekeeping Manhattan: Exclusion, Detention, and the Assisted Return of Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century New York City" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509653_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This paper examines immigration control in nineteenth-century New York City. In the 1840s, to deal with the problems arising from the unprecedented influx of immigrants into Manhattan through the port of New York, the state of New York established the Commissioners of Emigration. Although the Commissioners’ chief duty was to provide necessary welfare services to immigrants and protect them from vice and frauds, the Commissioners also conducted the exclusion of immigrants with undesirable characteristics, such as paupers and lunatics, by enforcing passenger law to prohibit their landing. When criminals whose immigration was financed by European municipalities arrived in New York in the 1850s, the mayor ordered the criminal passengers’ detention before landing and ultimately returned them to Europe. Also, while the Commissioners of Emigration did not possess the legal authority to deport abroad immigrants who were already in the state, they regularly sent destitute immigrants back to Europe based on the requests from the immigrants and sometimes boardinghouse keepers who accommodated them. Significantly, despite the pretense of voluntary return, there were cases when the Commissioners of Emigration almost forced immigrant paupers to go back to Europe. In the early 1880s, the state of New York started to deport immigrant paupers and lunatics to their countries of origin at the expense of the state.

By analyzing the activities of the Commissioners of Emigration and the mayors of New York City during the period between the 1850s and the 1880s, this paper reveals the practice of immigration control by an individual state before the age of federal immigration restriction. A number of scholars have explored the evolution of immigration policy in the United States after the Chinese Exclusion in the late nineteenth century, but there is only a limited amount of scholarship on pre-Chinese Exclusion state-level immigration control. Also, while the primary concern of most of the few studies on state policy is its legal aspect, this paper, by focusing on the actual enforcement of immigration policy, approaches the subject from a social perspective and highlights the experiences of both public officials and immigrants.

This paper will prove to be an ideal fit to the conference theme, “Imagination, Reparation, Transformation.” Broadly, it explores how New Yorkers perceived the problems of immigration in the context of increased poverty and a rising crime rate in the city and how such perception was manifested in concrete action against particular immigrants such as paupers, lunatics, and criminals to correct the social and moral wrongs allegedly brought by these immigrants. By examining immigration control in the nation’s biggest immigrant city during middle decades of the nineteenth century, this paper illuminates an early phase of America’s transformation into what one immigration scholar calls a “gatekeeping” nation which would be further developed at the turn of the twentieth century. Finally, by focusing on the themes such as exclusion, deportation, and detention, which are highly relevant to the immigration-related issues in the present time, this paper seeks to provoke active discussion on immigration and American society across disciplines.


Similar Titles:
The Attachments of Indo-Caribbean Immigrants to Indian Immigrants in New York City

A “Niagara of Intemperance and Vice”: Immigration, Crime, and the Social Production of Criminal Spaces in Nineteenth Century New York


 
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