A rise in deportations of Haitian immigrants at the US-Mexico border has brought another cycle of media attention to the US immigration system and border security apparatus.

The modern US immigration system was largely shaped by the 1965 Hart Celler Act, which passed amidst a wave of civil rights reforms. In a 2010 article, MAE NGAI unpacks the political history of the legislation and its role in defining contemporary understandings of legal and illegal immigration.

From the text:

“The problem of our present system is that it is based on a core paradox: Our system of allocating visas for the admission of permanent residents—the vaunted green card—is based on principles of equality and fairness, yet that very system has generated an ever-larger caste-population of unauthorized immigrants. We rarely, if ever, question the principle embedded in Hart-Celler that we should treat every country the same. It is based on a logic of equality and fairness and was meant to replace the patently inequitable and discriminatory system of national origin and racial quotas that had governed immigration policy since the 1920s. It was also very much in line with the outlook of the civil rights era. That was the ethos of the time—Hart-Celler is often recalled as being of a piece with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was also the self-conscious strategy of immigration reformers in the 1950s and early 1960s who decried the national origins quota system for its discrimination against eastern and southern Europeans.

When the initial hemispheric quotas under Hart-Celler went into effect in 1968, deportations to Mexico increased by forty percent, to 151,000. In 1976, when the country caps went into full effect, the United States deported 781,000 Mexicans. This compares with a total of 100,000 removals to all other countries in the world combined. By 1980 it was estimated that an illegal population of some two million people had accreted. There are now some twelve million unauthorized migrants in the United States. Three-quarters of them are from Mexico and Central America. They are the direct beneficiaries of legislation passed in the era of civil rights, founded on the principle of formal equality.”

Link to the piece.

  • In her 2019 book, Jane Hong looks at the 20th-century transnational movement across the Philippines, India, and the United States to repeal exclusionary immigration laws against Asians, which culminated in the passage of Hart Celler in 1965. Link.
  • “This duality of Hart Celler Act becomes even more striking when we consider how the act that fostered an increase in the numbers and diversity of immigrants also inspired a reactionary movement that has sought to marginalize those same immigrants inside the United States.” In a recent book, Sarah Coleman explores the anti-immigrant movement in the 1970s and 80s. Link.
  • “Paradoxical as it may seem, US immigration policy often has very little to do with trends and patterns of immigration.” Douglas Massey and Karen Pren on the unintended consequences of Hart Celler. Link.


Firms from Pinochet to Democracy

Felipe González is Assistant Professor in economics at Pontificia Universidad Católica De Chile. A 2020 paper co-authored with Mounu Prem looks at how Chilean firms with ties to the Pinochet government responded to the end of the dictatorship.

From the abstract:

“We use new firm-level data from Chile to document resource misallocation in favor of politically connected firms during the transition from dictatorship to democracy. We find that firms with links to the Pinochet regime (1973–1990) were relatively unproductive and benefited from resource misallocation under dictatorship, and those distortions persisted into democracy. We show that, after learning that the dictatorship was going to end, firms in the dictator’s network increased their productive capacity, experienced higher profits, and obtained more loans from the main state-owned bank. We test for different explanations and provide suggestive evidence consistent with connected firms aiming to shield their market position for the transition to democracy.”

Link to the paper.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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  • “We show a robust increase in mobility between the 1910s and 1940s cohorts, about half of which is driven by absolute convergence in racial income gaps. We also find that excluding Black Americans, particularly Black women, considerably overstates mobility throughout the 20th century.” Elisa Jácome, Ilyana Kuziemko and Suresh Naidu estimate trends in intergenerational mobility. Link.
  • Brian Potter on the history of bricks and changes in production during the industrial revolution. Link.
  • “We find significantly and substantially higher pain in the U.S. than in Canada.” Anna Zajacova, Jinhyung Lee, and Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk on the geography of chronic pain. Link.
  • In Rest of World, Phil Jones investigates the landscape of “microwork” for machine learning advances among the world’s displaced and refugee populations. Link. (ht: Laura)
  • Stephen Stapczynski, Akshat Rathi, and Godfrey Marawanyika on ‘carbon-neutral’ gas and carbon offsets in Zimbabwe. Link.
  • A new paper by Stephany Griffith-Jones, Kevin Gallagher, and Ulrich Volz on the 1989 Brady Plan, the foundation for the sovereign debt restructurings across Latin America. Link.
  • “We show that there is no positive relationship between trade liberalization and economic growth during the Great Liberalization of the 1990s.” Mateo Hoyos replicates Estevadeordal and Taylor (2013). Link. (ht: Paul)
  • “I argue that strong party-union ties and party leadership centralization may, in fact, insulate leftist presidents against redistributive pressures from below.” Andrés Schipani on PT rule in Brazil. Link.
  • “Not until the introduction of opera theaters that catered to a paying public in Venice did these ponderous courtly spectacles mutate into the lively popular art that opera has remained for the past 400 years. Why Venice and why then? The answer is to be found in the conjunction between Venetian carnival festivity and the intellectual politics of Venetian republicanism during the two generations after the lifting of the papal interdict against Venice in 1607. During this extraordinary period of relatively free speech, which was unmatched elsewhere at the time, Venice was the one place in Italy open to criticisms of Counter Reformation papal politics. Libertine and skeptical thought flourished in the Venetian academies, the members of which wrote the librettos and financed the theaters for many of the early Venetian operas.” By Edward Muir. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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