The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000

Book Reviews

long-neglected source for reconstructing the history of Texas Mexicans. By mak-
ing readers aware that creative literature as a genre can offer a "more telling his-
torical truth" (p. 250), the rhetoric of dominance in scholarly tomes can be
readily exposed. Certainly, Garza-Falc6n has made a solid plea for considering
fiction's historical value.
Angelo State University ARNOLDO DE LEON
Unwelcome Strangers: American Identity and the Turn Against Immigration. By David
M. Reimers. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. Pp. xii+199.
Acknowledgments, introduction, conclusions, notes, reading lists, index.
ISBN o-231-10o956-3- $27.50, cloth.)
David Reimers's book, Unwelcome Strangers, purports to give a historical analy-
sis of the immigration debate and to provide a balanced survey of current issues.
He does neither. Reimers begins his book with a cursory historical overview of
immigration policy from colonial times to WWII, but fails to show the historical
significance of past attitudes and policy toward the current anti-immigration
debate, the subject of the remainder of his book. In fact, the reason for this early
chapter is unclear, unless it is to demonstrate that the early restrictionist move-
ment harbored racial, nativistic, and religious prejudices-in supposed contrast
to today's restrictionist movement. Neither does he give a balanced interpreta-
tion of the current debate, the focus of the remainder of his book, but instead
devotes his pages to the anti-immigration viewpoint.
Reimers sees the current restrictionist movement as beginning in 1979 with
the formation of Federation Against American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a
group he argues is at the forefront of anti-immigration sentiment. The main
concern of the new restrictionists, such as FAIR, center around the environ-
ment, economics, a broken immigration system, and assimilation; these issues
are the subjects of Reimers's remaining chapters.
Reimers documents anti-immigrant sentiment through the use of newspaper
articles, oral interviews with leaders of restrictions organizations, and pamphlets
and books produced by groups such as FAIR, mostly during the 199os. It is
never clear, however, why these groups came about when they did or why a new
restrictionist movement developed at all. Reimers argues that the new move-
ment rose due to government policy of the postwar years, such as the 1965
immigration act, which eased the restrictions placed on Asian countries or the
1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which gave virtually all Cubans refugee status. If
this is the case, however, then why is it not until the 1990os that anti-immigration
rhetoric peaks, or why is it not until 1979 that anti-immigrant groups are
formed? Even with the founding of such restrictionist organizations in the late
1970os and early 198os, why does Reimers focus almost exclusively on the 1990s?
Reimers, I believe, is writing a book in the tradition of the historian John
Higham's Strangers in the Land (Rutgers University Press, 1988), which docu-
ments nativist views in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ulti-
mately attributing the anti-immigrant legislation of the 192os to economics.
Unfortunately, Reimers does not do nearly so well as Higham. In fact, I would be
hard pressed to call Unwelcome Strangers a history at all (even though its author is

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed February 8, 2016.