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Fictive Kinship

Fictive Kinship: Family Reunification and the Meaning of Race and Nation in American Migration

Catherine Lee
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Fictive Kinship
    Book Description:

    Today, roughly 70 percent of all visas for legal immigration are reserved for family members of permanent residents or American citizens. Family reunification-policies that seek to preserve family unity during or following migration-is a central pillar of current immigration law, but it has existed in some form in American statutes since at least the mid-nineteenth century. InFictive Kinship, sociologist Catherine Lee delves into the fascinating history of family reunification to examine how and why our conceptions of family have shaped immigration, the meaning of race, and the way we see ourselves as a country.

    Drawing from a rich set of archival sources,Fictive Kinshipshows that even the most draconian anti-immigrant laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, contained provisions for family unity, albeit for a limited class of immigrants. Arguments for uniting families separated by World War II and the Korean War also shaped immigration debates and the policies that led to the landmark 1965 Immigration Act. Lee argues that debating the contours of family offers a ready set of symbols and meanings to frame national identity and to define who counts as "one of us." Talk about family, however, does not inevitably lead to more liberal immigration policies. Welfare reform in the 1990s, for example, placed limits on benefits for immigrant families, and recent debates over the children of undocumented immigrants fanned petitions to rescind birthright citizenship.Fictive Kinshipshows that the centrality of family unity in the immigration discourse often limits the discussion about the goals, functions and roles of immigration and prevents a broader definition of American identity.

    Too often, studies of immigration policy focus on individuals or particular ethnic or racial groups. With its original and wide-ranging inquiry,Fictive Kinshipshifts the analysis in immigration studies toward the family, a largely unrecognized but critical component in the regulation of immigrants' experience in America.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-812-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. About the Author
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Note on Terminology
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction: “Family Reunification Has Been the Cornerstone of Our Immigration Policy”
    (pp. 1-18)

    In 1903, Rihei Onishi, an immigrant from Japan, began a rice farm in Pierce, Texas. He achieved enough economic success that by 1906 several dozen men from Japan had joined him in Texas, leasing land from him. In 1909, when Onishi went to Japan for a visit, six of his tenant farmers asked him to bring their fiancées and wives back to the United States. As “settled agriculturists,” summoning their wives, Onishi’s tenant farmers were allowed to bring over these women.¹ Their success in reuniting with their wives was fortunate, and perhaps unexpected, for their request was made following the...

  8. Chapter 2 “The Fabric of Our Civilization as We Know It”: Family in Research and Policy
    (pp. 19-48)

    On the floor of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1924, Rep. Victor Berger from Wisconsin, the first Socialist Party member elected to the House, offered an amendment to a bill that would provide non-quota status to spouses, minor children, and parents of immigrant residents who stated their intention to become citizens. He boldly declared:

    The basis of our present civilization is the family. The tribe and the Nation are only enlarged families. If you destroy the family you destroy the fabric of our civilization as we know it. If you let an alien come in to make this...

  9. Chapter 3 “I Have Kept My Blood Pure”: Gender Propriety, Class Privilege, and Racial Purity in Family Reunification During the Exclusion Era
    (pp. 49-73)

    On September 1, 1916, Quok Shee, age twenty, arrived on Angel Island from Hong Kong. She accompanied Chew Hoy Quong, a fifty-five year-old Chinese immigrant living in San Francisco who had originally landed in the United States in 1881. Chew Hoy Quong was a partner in a business that sold herbs and medicines and as such was a merchant who had the right to leave and reenter the United States and the privilege of bringing over a wife and children. Having found and married his young bride while on a visit to Hong Kong, Chew Hoy Quong was eager to...

  10. Chapter 4 “Reason of Elemental Humanity”: The Urgency of Uniting Families in the Postwar Era on the Road to Immigration Reform
    (pp. 74-98)

    On October 11, 1945, nearly one thousand British women from all parts of Great Britain lined up outside Caxton Hall in London, many with babies in their arms, for a meeting organized by the Married Women’s Association. The women had earlier planned to march with some ten thousand participants before the police canceled the scheduled event; their pent-up frustrations only grew over the following days. Finally, on that crisp fall day, the aggrieved women protested the continued delay in their efforts to unite with their U.S. military servicemen husbands who had been returned home. The women eventually made their way...

  11. Chapter 5 “Our Nation’s Efforts to Protect Families Has Fallen Far Short”: Pluralist Ideals and Vulnerable Families
    (pp. 99-119)

    In a letter dated June 11, 1984, and addressed to Rep. Peter Rodino (DNJ), chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Nationality, regarding a bill proposing to alter family reunification provisions, Hyman Bookbinder of the American Jewish Committee reminded the congress man: “America’s commitment to fair and humane entry preferences for relatives [has] historically expressed our highest values and [has] brought to the U.S. newcomers who have enriched our social, economic, and cultural life.”¹ It was an unnecessary reminder. One lawmaker after another during the debates related to addressing unauthorized immigration—which eventually led to passage of the Immigration...

  12. Chapter 6 Conclusion: “What Basis Do We Use to Decide Who Gets to Come?”
    (pp. 120-126)

    In 2007, a year after hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters demonstrated in Los Angeles and elsewhere to demand the liberalization of U.S. immigration laws, members of the Senate considered a proposal, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA), to do just that. The bill had three critical features: a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million unauthorized immigrants; a temporary worker visa program; and an overhaul of the preference program, which would have ended most of the existing family preference categories except for spouses and children of U.S. citizens. Instead of a family-based policy, the new legislation...

  13. Appendix: Data and Methods
    (pp. 127-128)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 129-152)
  15. References
    (pp. 153-172)
  16. Index
    (pp. 173-182)