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“Impossible Subjects” Book by Mae Ngai Critical Essay

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Updated: Jun 26th, 2019

The book ‘impossible subjects’ by Mae Ngai focuses on the history of immigration in the twentieth-century America. It offers a concise illumination of the illegal immigration of the late twentieth century. Though considered illegal and a serious problem, the author sees the immigration as a legal endeavor.

According to him, the inclusion of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. was a politics-based activity. They government wanted to use these immigrants to boost the political economy in the Southeast region.

In reality, these Mexican immigrants became the major source of cheap labor in the Agri-business sector, which was dominant in the region.

With the aid of border policies, inequitable control of visas and the Immigration Acts, the Americans and the American government went on to institutionalize racism against the Mexican and Asian Immigrants.

According to the author, ‘illegal aliens’ is a construction of positive immigration-policy laws and the implementation of border laws that propped the labeling of ethnically foreign immigrants.

The chronological scope of this book revolves around the twentieth-century immigration into the U.S. Most of these immigrants came from Mexico and the main actors were the Mexican government, Mexicans, American government and the American people.

Arguably therefore, the author uses the concept Impossible Subjects to denote this immigration that seemed impossible according to law, but turned out to be a social reality.

In her exploration, the author seeks to answer two major questions: what is the origin of the label ‘illegal aliens’ in the American society? Why does the immigration policy consider the ‘impossible subjects’ a national problem? These are the key questions the author attempts to answer throughout the book.

In her exploration, the author uses content analysis and literature methods to carry out her study. This methodology entails a methodical and critical analysis of the American historical sources. She also uses theories to reinforce her arguments concerning the twentieth-century American immigration policy.

In her analysis, the ‘Critical Legal Theory’ plays a very critical part. This theory is critically instrumental in determining the role laws play in the process of social formation.

Therefore, theoretical approach in this inquiry makes posited arguments about the American immigration highly persuasive and historically excellent.

Such sources as case studies; archived historical documents; government documents, and historical journals were primary in the provision of necessary information relevant to the study.

In regard to the issue of national origins, the author is trying to persuade her audiences that the United States is a fabled country of immigrants. On the question of racial discrimination, the author fails to understand how people from certain ethnic origins became culprits of racism while every America is a country of immigrants.

Before the inception of the U.S., America was inhabited by Asians, Caucasians, Latinos and the Indians. Ironically, these are the racial groups that later came to suffer colonial subjugation.

At the beginning of 1020s, the colonial government called for more immigrants so as to get enough cheap labor. The imperialist government used the immigration policy to administer immigrants under the provisions of the American law.

However, an intricate strategy came into play in institutionalizing discrimination against the immigrants on grounds that they came to America through illicit means. As a result, the label illegal alien was introduced to refer to the immigrant population in the U.S.

The Mexican immigrants became socially known as new political and legal slaves whose inclusion in the country had no legal basis though a social reality.

Therefore, these immigrants became culprits of racism for many years since the so-called ‘aboriginals’ saw them as ‘illegal aliens’ who didn’t deserve the American citizenship.

As the author illustrates, there was a huge recruitment of Mexican and Filipino laborers into the U.S. to work in the Agri-business sector at the start of the 1920s. This was a legal endeavor that constitutionally granted these Mexican and Filipino immigrants the U.S. citizenship according to the constitution.

However, as time passed, these immigrants began to face racial discrimination. As the situation continued to worsen, these legally recruited and accepted Mexican and Asian immigrants became known as illegal foreigners in the American society.

According to the author, the whole endeavor was aimed at ranking racial categories, excusing mistreatment of certain races, and elevating economic, political and racial status of the European-American people in the U.S.

During the Second World War, Americans of the Japanese and Chinese origin opted to leave America for their mother countries.

Though this was as a result of disappointments from the abusive and discriminatory American society and the subsequent reinforcement of their cultural bonds, they received a wrong depiction as treacherous citizens.

In reality, these were the original American citizens. In addition to their patriotism, they were also native-born and deserved all rights and protection that citizens should have unlike their illicit immigrant counterparts.

The author also notes how the American government put in place extreme measures to prevent Chinese immigration to the U.S. According to her, all these were aimed at protecting Americans from the Chinese communist ideology.

This book deserves academic appraisal. It offers critical and realistic historical insights about the American society. It has contributed much to American History, Ethnic Studies and Legal History.

In a nutshell, Impossible Subjects is a perfect exposition of the twentieth-century immigration to America. Therefore, history scholars should make good use of the information in this book.

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