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White Borders

The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall

Author: Reece Jones

“This powerful and meticulously argued book reveals that immigration crackdowns … [have] always been about saving and protecting the racist idea of a white America.”
Ibram X. Kendi, award-winning author of Four Hundred Souls and Stamped from the Beginning

“A damning inquiry into the history of the border as a place where race is created and racism honed into a razor-sharp ideology.”
—Greg Grandin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The End of the Myth

Recent racist anti-immigration policies, from the border wall to the Muslim ban, have left many Americans wondering: How did we get here? In what readers call a “chilling and revelatory” account, Reece Jones reveals the painful answer: although the US is often mythologized as a nation of immigrants, it has a long history of immigration restrictions that are rooted in the racist fear of the “great replacement” of whites with non-white newcomers. After the arrival of the first slave ship in 1619, the colonies that became the United States were based on the dual foundation of open immigration for whites from Northern Europe and the racial exclusion of slaves from Africa, Native Americans, and, eventually, immigrants from other parts of the world.

Jones’s scholarship shines through his extensive research of the United States’ racist and xenophobic underbelly. He connects past and present to uncover the link between the Chinese Exclusion laws of the 1880s, the “Keep America American” nativism of the 1920s, and the “Build the Wall” chants initiated by former president Donald Trump in 2016. Along the way, we meet a bizarre cast of anti-immigration characters, such as John Tanton, Cordelia Scaife May, and Stephen Miller, who pushed fringe ideas about “white genocide” and “race suicide” into mainstream political discourse. Through gripping stories and in-depth analysis of major immigration cases, Jones explores the connections between anti-immigration hate groups and the Republican Party. What is laid bare after his examination is not just the intersection between white supremacy and anti-immigration bias but also the lasting impacts this perfect storm of hatred has had on United States law.
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“A highly recommended, in-depth history of migration that accounts for the lives affected by American border policing and immigration restrictions.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“The author’s ability to connect the dots is impressive—and depressing, since the politics of ethnic hatred persist.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Reece Jones explores the tragic, ludicrous, and endlessly violent creation and maintenance of America’s borders . . . Jones’s greatest contribution is to show the forces that really drove the Trump campaign.”
Chicago Review of Books

White Borders is a searing indictment of the US immigration restrictions from Chinese Exclusion through the Trump presidency. This powerful and meticulously argued book reveals that while immigration crackdowns are justified as protecting jobs and workers, they’ve always been about saving and protecting the racist idea of a white America.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist

“With eloquent prose and masterful storytelling, Reece Jones narrates the hard history of immigration policies of the US settler colonial state that was founded and rooted in white supremacy, from Chinese exclusion to the border wall.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

“Reece Jones’s White Borders is a damning inquiry into the history of the border as a place where race is created and racism honed into a razor-sharp ideology. Deeply researched and movingly written, White Borders is an indispensable book.”
—Greg Grandin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The End of the Myth

“Reece Jones guides us through the long, tangled, and still developing history of how the United States came to know itself as a nation through the increasingly strict control of movement across its borders. Jones demonstrates in this assiduously researched and carefully crafted book that the nation’s borders are in fact central to making the state what it is: a key tool in the maintenance not just of white supremacy but of whiteness itself.”
—Brendan O’Connor, author of Blood Red Lines: How Nativism Fuels the Right

List of Tables

Two Versions of History

Go West, Young Man

Lewd and Debauched

Whatever Happens, the Chinese Must Go

The White Man, Par Excellence

The Very Fabric of Our Race

Keep America American

The Ethnic Mix of This Country Will Not Be Upset

People, People, People, People

On Our Same Side

Invaded on All Fronts

Hostile Takeover

Out-Tancredo Tancredo

The World Just Changed

It’s Time to Make Immigration Policy Great Again

The Invisible Wall

The Great Replacement


White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall by Reece Jones

Readers’ Guide Discussion Questions

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  1. Reflect on Jones’s decision to open the prologue with a description of the infamous 2017 hate rally held on the grounds of the University of Virginia, surrounding the statue of Thomas Jefferson. How does this moment in history encapsulate many of the histories of anti-immigration sentiment later discussed in the book? What does this moment indicate about the collective ideologies of hate groups in general and about the power of collective anti-immigration movements?
  2. How does the founding of this country contradict the popular myth that the United States is “a nation of immigrants”? What makes this myth particularly harmful and who does this myth serve? Do you think a nation can ever truly progress beyond the legacy of its foundational practices? If so, how and by whom?
  3. What do many of the immigrant histories in this book indicate about the pursual of the American Dream when pitted against antagonism, violence, anti-immigration laws, and law enforcement? How do these histories affect your attitude toward the pronouncement of the United States as a “land of opportunity”?
  4. To what extent were you familiar with the histories of violence enacted toward various immigrant populations? What factors allow for these histories to be obscured?
  5. On page 23, Reece Jones details counterefforts to protect the white social order that had begun to slip away during the Reconstruction period. What do these counterefforts demonstrate about the linearity of progress when it comes to the fight for citizenship and naturalization? Where, in history, do you see other examples of backlash against inclusionary practices in US history despite what appears, at first, to be progress?
  6. Put current projections of a future largely populated by mixed-race individuals in conversation with historical fears of miscegenation and “race suicide.” How have attitudes toward racial mixing transformed since the 1800s, and what factors have contributed to that transformation?
  7. To what extent did you consider histories of enslavement and lasting anti-Black legislation as belonging to histories of immigration? How does the history of chattel slavery have a lasting impact on national racialized definitions of citizenship, both in the Constitution and in the lived experience of all immigrant groups up to the modern day?
  8. Consider the rise to power of Maine Republican senator James G. Blaine, as detailed on page 42. What parallels do you see between Blaine and Trump’s political influence, motives, tactics, and popularity? What parallels do you see between Trump and other historical figures throughout this text? What conditions allow for leaders like this to rise to prominence?
  9. Consider the historical tenets of anti-immigration sentiment, including fear of invasion or replacement, lack of assimilation, and cultural upheaval, to name a few. Which of these tenets do you believe are key to current attitudes toward immigration? How have these fears been translated into modern legislation?
  10. How does the latest effort to close America’s borders to nonwhite immigrants—beginning with the grassroots environmental movement that arose in the 1960s—differ from movements with similar or identical goals in the past? What are your reactions to the origins of this current movement?
  11. Consider your family history. How does the book shift your understanding of your own family’s position or sense of belonging in the country where you currently live?
  12. Beyond race, how do gender, dis/ability, and other identity factors play a role in the history of immigration? Where do you see these factors appear in the book?
  13. Although a lesser-known name, John Tanton is described as one of the single most influential individuals behind current anti-immigration policy. What allows for individuals like Tanton to go relatively unrecognized by the public while still remaining a key player in the movement? To what extent were you familiar with John Tanton and the Tanton Network, and how does his influence illustrate the impact of behind-the-scenes wealth on legislation and democratic practices? How does Jones’s overall focus on the emphasis of individual influencers inform your understanding of this history?
  14. On page 192, Jones notes that “immigration laws are a central, but often unrecognized, part of the white supremacist vision of the United States as a white country.” Given the ways in which Jones demonstrates the significance of immigration laws, why do you think they often go unrecognized? What can be done, on an individual or structural level, to bring attention to the significance of these laws? Why is it important to recognize their full nature and impact?
  15. Reece Jones makes the case for the importance of the border as a symbol for white nationalism in the United States (page 106). To what extent do you agree or disagree with this claim? To what extent can you envision a future without borders, and what steps do you believe need to be taken in order to actualize that future?

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White Borders

ISBN: 978-080700726-6
Publication Date: 10/11/2022
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $17.95
Format: Paperback
Availability: In stock.
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