Sarah. R. Coleman. The Walls Within: The Politics of Immigration in Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2021. vii + 272 pages. Hardcover, $35:00..

AuthorUneke, Okori

Historian Sarah Coleman presented a detailed and careful analyses of the contentious fight over the rights of immigrants to the United States since the 1960s. The immediate spark to this battle stems from the 1965 Hart-Celler Act. This law formally put an end to the National Origins Formula embedded in the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which essentially limited immigration through a national origins quota from Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, and other places. In effect, the law was designed to preserve the American ethnic/racial homogeneity by promoting immigration from Northwestern Europe. Consequently, the 1965 law changed the US immigration system by doing away with national quotas in favor of a supposedly equalitarian approach.

Unexpectedly, the new law generated a backlash. This book provides a history of the political and legal clashes over US immigrants' rights since 1965, and how these conflicts shaped both legal and unauthorized immigrants' access to public schools, employment, and social assistance. In her examination of the clashes that ensued, Coleman focused on efforts to limit immigrants' rights within the US through domestic policy, and not on attempts to stop immigration at the border. The author discussed the federal, state, and local levels of government, who tousled with each other over who has the authority that make critical decisions that impinge on the lives of immigrants. While the Hart-Celler Act seemed to be progressive, the federal Government's expansion of the welfare state with a variety of new benefits did not sit well with conservative immigration restrictionists, who blamed immigrants as a burden on the state and its citizens. Coleman focused on the increasing role that the rights of aliens played in immigration control and policy from 1965 onwards. The author aptly put it this way: " federal policy appeared increasingly directionless in the 1970s and 1980s, states and local governments began taking more decision making about immigrants into their own hands. In doing so, local and state action in turn pressured federal officials either to delegate authority to the states or to conform federal immigration policy to state preferences" (p.5). One of the most contentious issues on the national dialogue concerning immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, is access to public education.

The book begins by examining the rise of unauthorized immigrant education activism in Texas. The Texas Education Code...

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