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Immigration laws in the U.S. have historically been motivated by racial exclusion and the desire to save the idea of a white America, according to White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall (Beacon Press), a new book by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Reece Jones.

White Borders connects the past to the present, detailing racist anti-immigration policies ranging from the border wall to the Muslim ban. The book documents ties between anti-immigrant hate groups and the Trump administration, which repackaged white supremacist theories of white genocide and “the great replacement” as mainstream political ideas.

head shot of reece jones
Reece Jones

“I wrote this book after becoming alarmed by the anti-immigrant turn in American politics over the last few years,” said Jones. “As I dug into the archives and traveled the borderlands, I realized that—from the first immigration laws that banned Chinese immigrants to the construction of the border wall today—racism had been at the heart of immigration restrictions in the United States.”

In a starred review, the Library Journal called White Borders, “A highly recommended, in-depth history of migration that accounts for lives affected by American border policing and immigration restrictions.”

The Chicago Review of Books said, “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.”

Jones is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow and chair of the Department of Geography and Environment in the College of Social Sciences. He is the author of three other books: the award-winning Violent Borders (2016) and Border Walls (2012), as well as the forthcoming Nobody is Protected (2022). He also serves as the editor-in-chief of Geopolitics, a peer-reviewed journal covering global politics, human geography and international political economy.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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