America for Americans

A History of Xenophobia in the United States


By Erika Lee

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This definitive history of American xenophobia is "essential reading for anyone who wants to build a more inclusive society" (Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times-bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist)

The United States is known as a nation of immigrants. But it is also a nation of xenophobia. In America for Americans, Erika Lee shows that an irrational fear, hatred, and hostility toward immigrants has been a defining feature of our nation from the colonial era to the Trump era. Benjamin Franklin ridiculed Germans for their "strange and foreign ways." Americans' anxiety over Irish Catholics turned xenophobia into a national political movement. Chinese immigrants were excluded, Japanese incarcerated, and Mexicans deported.

Today, Americans fear Muslims, Latinos, and the so-called browning of America. Forcing us to confront this history, Lee explains how xenophobia works, why it has endured, and how it threatens America. Now updated with an afterword reflecting on how the coronavirus pandemic turbocharged xenophobia, America for Americans is an urgent spur to action for any concerned citizen.


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It’s a beautiful midsummer day in Jersey City, New Jersey, and I am on a boat heading to the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. My shipmates reflect America’s diversity. There are South Asian grandmothers wearing saris and baseball caps, and Chinese women holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the hot sun. A white father explains to his squirming children how their great-great-grandfather came to the United States a century ago from Austria. The mood is cheerful. An African American family records a video. “Everyone excited to see the Statue of Liberty?” the mother asks. The kids all yell, “Yes!”

A soothing woman’s voice welcomes us on board and begins a brief history lesson. She informs us that we’re heading to Ellis Island, the “main gateway into America.” Our journey, we’re told, “recalls the voyages” of approximately twelve million immigrants who “passed through these waters on their way to Ellis Island—and a new life.”

I am trying to share in this patriotic celebration of Ellis Island, a place that serves as a symbol of America’s welcome to immigrants, but I keep thinking about another message I’ve heard that day. The 2016 Republican National Convention has just ended, and the GOP platform, put forward by Donald Trump, was one of pure xenophobia. Ever since launching his presidential campaign, Trump had pledged to beef up border security, ban Muslim immigrants, deport eleven million undocumented people living in the United States, and build a massive wall along the country’s southern border with Mexico. And now that he was the official Republican presidential nominee, his extreme views were being repeated by a growing number of voters and politicians.

Riffing on the convention’s opening theme—“Make America Safe Again”—speaker after speaker painted a terrifying portrait of America under siege by immigrant criminals, terrorists, and gang members. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed, for example, that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton supported “open borders” that would admit Syrian refugees posing as “operatives who are terrorists,” who were “going to come to Western Europe and here and kill us.” US senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama falsely claimed that 350,000 people succeeded in “crossing our borders illegally each year.” He also blamed immigrants for taking away jobs from Americans.1

Most of the statements made by Trump and other convention speakers were either patently false or grossly misleading, but none of that seemed to matter. The number of undocumented immigrants cited by convention speakers was much too high, and these claims ignored the larger trend of an overall decline in undocumented immigration. Studies also reported that immigrants, including those who were undocumented, were less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.2 Yet the crowd inside the Quicken Loans Arena went crazy for Trump’s message. During his seventy-five-minute speech, in which he identified immigration as one of the greatest threats to the United States and promised to restore America’s “immigration security,” he was repeatedly interrupted by cheers, applause, and chants of “Build the wall!”3

I can’t forget the angry tones and raised fists as I alight on Ellis Island and walk through the museum exhibits. We learn about earlier chapters in our anti-immigrant history, but we are meant to understand them as just that: history that is over and done with. By the time visitors get to the museum gift shop, we are encouraged to banish this ugly past from our minds and celebrate our immigrant roots instead. In true American fashion, we do this by buying something. Team Italy or Team Poland T-shirts, snow globes of the Statue of Liberty or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Ellis Café, however, takes different inspiration, offering menu items like the All-American Angus Cheeseburger and the Freedom Burger. Between the gift shop and the café, it seems that we can buy both immigrant and all-American identities that happily coexist. But I know that it is not that simple.

I am struggling to figure out how these two Americas fit together.

There is the United States that is known as a nation of immigrants. Three-fifths of all the world’s immigrants settled in the United States from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth; over the course of the twentieth century, the United States remained the world’s largest immigrant-receiving country, and into the start of the twenty-first century, it still admitted more immigrants than any other country—over a million per year. More than eighty million have arrived in the last two hundred years alone. The United States has also historically led the world in resettling refugees, bringing in three million since 1980. Americans celebrate this United States by referring to their “nation of immigrants,” a country that values immigrants and offers a haven for refugees. Even as this story has obscured a violent history of invasion, native dispossession, and slavery, defining the United States as a nation of immigrants continues to be a popular way of reaffirming America’s acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity. This is the America that my grandparents—immigrants from China—knew and loved. They braved long transpacific journeys and worked long hours as domestic servants, in Chinese restaurants and in laundries, so that their children and grandchildren could have a chance to claim the promised American dream.4

But the United States is also a nation of xenophobia. Even as it has welcomed millions from around the world, it has also deported more immigrants than any other nation—over fifty-five million since 1882.5 Americans have been wary of almost every group of foreigners that has come to the United States: German immigrants in the eighteenth century; Irish and Chinese in the nineteenth century; Italians, Jews, Japanese, and Mexicans in the twentieth century; and Muslims today. Americans have labeled immigrants threatening because they were poor, practiced a different faith, were nonwhite. They have argued that immigrants were too numerous, were not assimilating, were taking jobs away from deserving Americans, were bringing crime and disease into the country, had dangerous political ideals, were un-American, or even hated America. The United States has passed discriminatory immigration laws and detained, incarcerated, and expelled immigrants. It has exploited and segregated the foreign-born, allowing them to be in America but not accepted as fully American.

This is also the America that my grandparents knew well. They managed to enter the country when the Chinese Exclusion Act (which was enacted in 1882 and lasted until 1943) barred most Chinese from the United States. One of my grandfathers came in with false papers and was detained in the prisonlike barracks of the Angel Island immigration station in San Francisco. Today, some people would call him an “undocumented immigrant” who courageously risked all to come to the United States despite unfair immigration laws; others would term him an “illegal alien” who broke the law, challenged our border security, and thus deserved detention or worse. The exclusion laws also forced many families to live apart from each other, including my grandmother’s family, who were separated for three generations.

Our story is not unique. Immigrant families remain separated from each other by harsh laws, and an estimated eleven million immigrants, like my grandfather, have either no documentation or the wrong kind of documentation. They live their lives in the shadows, ever fearful of sudden deportation.

The books that line my shelves offer many explanations for why we have targeted various immigrant groups in the past. Historians, sociologists, political scientists, and journalists explain that xenophobia rises and falls along with economic, political, and social crises; war; and rapid demographic change. In particular, they say, high immigration combined with an economic downturn fuels xenophobia. War exacerbates hostility. Nearly all of these books focus on a specific immigrant group and the corresponding anti-immigrant campaign—the anti-Catholic movement, the efforts to exclude Chinese, the mass deportation of Mexicans, post-9/11 Islamophobia. In reading about one episode, it’s difficult to draw connections to other anti-immigrant campaigns that preceded or followed it, or even between those that were happening at the same time. Nor are there many studies that allow us to understand these xenophobic movements in relation to each other or to Native American and African American history.6 My initial reading leaves me with an impression that xenophobic episodes flared up at specific times in specific places and then died down.

Generally speaking, xenophobia is also treated as an exception to America’s immigration tradition. Anti-immigrant campaigns were unfortunate episodes promoted by paranoid extremists in an otherwise welcoming nation, we’re told. There is a consensus that xenophobia triumphed in the 1920s, when the United States legalized a discriminatory immigration quota system that favored immigrants from northern and western Europe over all other groups, a policy that nearly closed the door on immigration for over forty years. Yet with the civil rights movement, many scholars have explained, xenophobia waned. When it has resurfaced in the last fifty years, it has been a momentary blip or an aberration in America’s inevitable march toward immigrant inclusion and equality.7

Because I was educated within this tradition, my initial reaction to Donald Trump’s positions on immigration varied from constant astonishment and dark humor to righteous anger and helplessness. I, like many others, did not really take him seriously. I believed that in post-Obama America, his campaign would be another one of those aberrations in America’s history, a cautionary tale of how Americans needed to remain vigilant against injustice, but nothing that would truly resurrect the darkest chapters of American history. I did not think xenophobia could win in 2016.

I was wrong. I did not fully understand how central xenophobia has been to the making of the United States, and how effective it has been in American politics. I failed to recognize both its power and resilience. I was unprepared for this America.

This stark realization drove me to reexamine the long history of xenophobia in the United States. My journey took me to archives from coast to coast to study sources dating from the colonial era to today. I’ve examined immigrant songs and government documents, cartoons and hate crime statistics, newspaper articles, speeches, and tweets. Early in my research, I stumbled upon President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1916 “America for Americans” speech in which he exhorted immigrants to fully assimilate, abandon any loyalty to former homelands, and reject hyphenated identities. They were to pledge their allegiance to a “nationalized and unified America,” a “straight Americanism” that was “unconditioned and unqualified,” and an “America for Americans.” A more extreme version of this speech was promoted in a 1920s pamphlet published by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Claiming to speak for “all true Americans,” the Klan condemned the “flood of foreigners” who took advantage of the United States, pushed her “native born” aside, and retained allegiance to foreign flags. This pamphlet was also titled “America for Americans”; its red, white, and blue cover featured a white-robed-and-hooded Klansman brandishing an enormous American flag astride a similarly styled horse. Finally, in 1925, best-selling author and eugenicist Madison Grant used the now familiar white nationalist rallying cry “America for Americans” to report that native white Americans were being “submerged” by an “influx of foreigners.” He warned that strict immigration restriction, even the suspension of all immigration, might soon be necessary. The Roosevelt speech, the Klan pamphlet, and the Grant article are all documents from an era that historians have identified as a high point of xenophobia, but their messages resound across the centuries: immigrants are a threat to the United States; white Americans are the only “true Americans”; and vigilance and regulation, through the KKK’s campaign of racial violence, Grant’s immigration restriction, or Teddy Roosevelt’s coercive “Americanism,” are the only ways to protect an “America for Americans.”8

Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Relations Committee Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Oviatt Library, California State University, Northridge.

History shows that xenophobia has been a constant and defining feature of American life. It is deeply embedded in our society, economy, and politics. It thrives best in certain contexts, such as periods of rapid economic and demographic change, but it has also been actively promoted by special interests in the pursuit of political power. It has influenced elections and dictated policies. It has shaped American foreign relations and justified American imperialism. It has played a central role in America’s changing definitions of race, citizenship, and what it means to be “American.” It has endured because it has been an indelible part of American racism, white supremacy, and nationalism, and because it has been supported by American capitalism and democracy.

Xenophobia has been neither an aberration nor a contradiction to the United States’ history of immigration. Rather, it has existed alongside and constrained America’s immigration tradition, determining just who can enter our so-called nation of immigrants and who cannot. Even as Americans have realized that the threats allegedly posed by immigrants were, in hindsight, unjustified, they have allowed xenophobia to become an American tradition.

COMING FROM THE Greek words xenos, which translates into “stranger,” and phobos, which means either “fear” or “flight,” xenophobia literally means fear and hatred of foreigners. But this literal translation obscures its broader meaning and impact. To fully understand the significance xenophobia has had on American life, it is important to recognize what it is, who it targets and why, what it does, and why it has endured.

There is no single or uniformly agreed-upon definition of xenophobia in academia, human rights discourses, or international law.9 And although xenophobia is often loosely characterized as individual prejudice, animosity, or bias toward foreigners, it is in fact much more. It is an ideology: a set of beliefs and ideas based on the premise that foreigners are threats to the nation and its people. It promotes an irrational fear and hatred of immigrants and demonizes foreigners (and, crucially, people considered to be “foreign”). It defines immigration as a crisis, likening the movement of peoples to an invasion of hostile forces requiring a military-like response. It is born from a narrow and exclusive definition of who is American—and who is not. It is easily weaponized during times of change and anxiety, but it exists and flourishes during times of peace and war, economic prosperity and depression, low and high immigration, and racial struggle and racial progress.

Native Americans and African Americans were the country’s first “others,” and xenophobia was forged by America’s enslavement of Africans, the seizure of native land and resources, the removal or elimination of indigenous peoples, and the violence and denial of equal rights that accompanied both slavery and settler colonialism. How immigrants have fit into this racial environment of settlers, slaves, and indigenous peoples has shaped Americans’ attitudes toward them from the colonial era to the present. Describing certain immigrant groups as savages or as violent—two terms used to dehumanize Native Americans and African Americans, for example—was a way of singling out these arrivals as similarly racially inferior and therefore deserving of unequal treatment.10

Yet certain types of foreignness have always been considered more threatening than others. Non-Protestant religions—namely Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam—have been seen as foreign religions and their practitioners scripted as foreigners. Anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia have focused not only on theological debates over faith but also on the alleged foreign influence of these religions in the United States—and fears that each group was connected to a foreign entity or power (global Jewry, the Vatican, or radical Islamic clerics abroad) that was controlling adherents in the United States and interfering with US sovereignty.

Gender and sexuality have also impacted who is targeted by xenophobia. Poor immigrant women have been labeled economic threats on the assumption that they were more likely to become dependent on the state, and immigration laws that allow for the exclusion of immigrants “likely to become a public charge” have overwhelmingly been applied to women and children. Women who were charged with immoral behavior such as premarital sex were almost always excluded, while men were never even questioned about or judged by their sexual histories before, during, or outside of marriage. Immigrants who were or were perceived to be homosexual, or who practiced what was considered to be non-normative sexual behavior or expression, have also been treated as threats to America and its people.11

As bias based on gender, class, religion, and sexual orientation have intersected with racism, it has created particularly virulent forms of xenophobia. In the nineteenth century, all Chinese women were believed to be prostitutes who threatened Americans with disease and interracial sex. In the next century, poor Mexican women were vilified for having too many so-called anchor babies and taxing welfare agencies. And today, hijab-wearing Muslim immigrant women are condemned for their alleged lack of assimilation and their religiosity.

Race is the single most important factor in determining which foreigners are targeted for xenophobic discrimination and which ones are not. This is because xenophobia is a form of racism. It defines certain groups as racial and religious others who are inherently inferior or dangerous—or both—and demonizes them as a group based on these presumptions. Xenophobia has also been an inextricable part of race making in America; it has shaped how Americans classify people by race and rank them in America’s racial hierarchy. Lastly, xenophobia has become an institutionalized form of racial discrimination and racial domination.12

There are many examples of how xenophobia as racism has worked in American history. One of the most important is from the early twentieth century when xenophobes turned to eugenics and “science” to classify humans into distinct races and to “prove” the inherent superiority of white northern and western Europeans. They then used that science to lobby for immigration restrictions based on race. Northern and western Europeans were favored above all other groups through an immigration quota system that was implemented in the 1920s and remained in place until 1965.

Not all efforts to limit or regulate immigration are xenophobic or racist. But many have been primarily driven by racism and an irrational fear and hatred of foreigners rather than by rational economic, political, or foreign policy considerations. They demonize immigrants as the “problems” while ignoring larger global factors (such as US policies and intervention) that drive migration, including undocumented migration. As a result, many legitimate immigration debates have been turned into full-blown immigration panics, and lawmakers have targeted specific populations instead of implementing nondiscriminatory solutions. Moreover, many contemporary policies have been built on the foundation of earlier xenophobic laws. The US government’s current border security efforts, for example, have been rooted in a century-long history of defining all Mexican immigrants as “illegals” or as dangerous criminals. A direct line can be drawn from this history to current racial profiling practices and “show me your papers” laws that empower local officials to ask (mostly Mexican-appearing) individuals about their immigration status during lawful stops or arrests far into the country’s interior. Xenophobia also impacts how even neutral policies can be enforced in discriminatory ways. In the early twentieth century, immigration officials on Ellis Island used the law barring immigrants who were “likely to become public charges” as an effective means of denying entry to Jewish immigrants. Across the country on Angel Island, officials weaponized it to bar South Asians.13

As a form of racial discrimination, xenophobia has not distinguished between immigrants who have entered with authorization and those who have not, or between immigrants and US citizens. Instead, it has ensnared entire populations, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, and the strain and violence of xenophobia has had generational consequences.14 Take, for example, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, initially passed as a temporary measure to bar Chinese laborers; it made it harder for all Chinese, including American citizens of Chinese descent, to enter and reenter the country for generations, until the law was repealed in 1943. Or consider the mass deportation of Mexicans during the Great Depression. Initially designed to target those in the country without authorization, the xenophobic campaign ultimately involved the removal of legal residents and US-born Mexican American citizens. Such episodes continued: during World War II, two-thirds of the Japanese Americans who were forced out of their homes and into incarceration camps were US citizens. And today, many of the people impacted by the United States’ growing deportation regime are US citizens in mixed-status families, typically undocumented immigrant parents and their citizen children.

Xenophobia is not only about immigration; it is about who has the power to define what it means to be American, who gets to enjoy the privileges of American citizenship, and who does not. The nation’s founding documents outlined the basic rights to be bestowed on Americans (equality; the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and the right of the people to govern themselves democratically). But the question of who actually counts as an American has been a source of constant debate. Xenophobia has been instrumental in creating the terms of permission.15 Immigrants who were deemed capable and worthy of American citizenship were admitted and allowed to become naturalized citizens; those who were not were increasingly restricted, excluded, barred from naturalized citizenship, or expelled. Race has always been the determining factor in distinguishing “good” immigrants and future Americans from “bad” ones.

Xenophobia has also driven nativism, the naming of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant settlers and their descendants as “natives” to the United States and the granting of special privileges and protections to them. Although nativism is often used interchangeably with xenophobia as a shorthand for antiforeign sentiment, it is related but distinct. Its roots are in the early and mid-nineteenth century when white Protestant settlers began using and claiming the term native American for themselves. They sought to assert dominance over new immigrants from Europe—especially Catholic Europe—who were, through their numbers and political participation, changing the balance of power in the United States. As so-called native Americans, white Protestants believed they should be recognized as “true” Americans who alone knew what was best for the country. They also insisted that they deserved preferential treatment and rights—such as the ability to hold public office—while claiming that foreigners did not. A deep-rooted fear of displacement drove these early expressions of nativism (and white supremacy) and continues to drive them today.16

Asserting native American status was clearly about immigration, but it was also about real Native Americans, a crucial fact that has long been ignored by writers and scholars. The nineteenth century was not just being changed through immigration; it was also being transformed by continuing territorial expansion, Native American wars, and the forced removal of Native Americans from their homelands. When white Americans claimed native status, they were not claiming indigenous roots. What they were asserting was a native claim to the land, in order to legitimize their territorial gains and the continuing campaigns against Native Americans. It was used to justify both past and ongoing white settlement (and the attendant broken treaties and racial terror that made this possible). These were simultaneously acts of physical, legal, political, and rhetorical dispossession that worked hand in hand with xenophobia, slavery, and white supremacy to create a distinct and racist American national identity. Into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, nativism continued to drive ongoing inequality and discrimination against Native Americans and others while advocating for “America First” policies that opposed US involvement in both world wars, supported immigration restriction, and fueled the white nationalism that helped elect Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016.17

ACROSS THE CENTURIES, xenophobia has endured in the United States. Generations of anti-immigrant leaders, politicians, and citizens have adapted xenophobia to identify new threats and enact new solutions to the “problem” of immigration. Just a few decades after Irish Catholics had been demonized as the greatest threat to America, for example, they were grudgingly accepted as “good immigrants” and even “good Americans” as the nation began to grapple with the arrival of new immigrant threats from China and southern and eastern Europe. America’s history of xenophobia has also helped it persist across the centuries. Past campaigns have provided powerful images, discourses, and legal precedents that have been constantly adapted to suit new needs and contexts. In this way, xenophobia has become normalized and has succeeded through repetition, expanding on an established anti-immigrant playbook to mobilize public opinion and policy against the latest immigrant threats.18 During and after the successful exclusion of Chinese immigrants, for instance, groups considered to be “just like” the Chinese (such as Japanese, Koreans, South Asians, and Filipinos) were similarly condemned to immigration restriction and exclusion. The characterization of all Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans as “illegal aliens” or foreigners in their own land in the early twentieth century has also helped justify mass deportation drives targeting them in the twenty-first.

Xenophobia has even persevered alongside civil rights. After the civil rights movement delegitimized explicit racism, xenophobes learned to rely on color-blind racism to achieve their anti-immigrant agendas. Instead of justifying immigration policies that explicitly singled out immigrants on the basis of their religion or race, for example, xenophobes have used code words like national security or law and order as the basis for discriminatory treatment. Through this form of color-blind xenophobia


  • "This sweeping account draws parallels between Benjamin Franklin's worry over 'swarthy' Germans 'herding together' in the eighteenth century and Donald Trump's race-baiting today. Xenophobia, Lee argues, has been an indelible 'American tradition,' deployed to social and political ends since the country's founding. A manifesto as much as a history, the book shows how every large immigrant group since Franklin's time-Irish, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern-was 'scripted' by populist demagogues as alien and threatening."—New Yorker
  • "Including everything from Chinese Exclusion to recent travel bans, America for Americans exposes the folly in arguments that position the U.S. as an eternally anti-racist society."—Bustle
  • "She persuasively expresses that current hostilities over national borders are no exception to the nation's history. This clearly organized and lucidly written book should be read by a wide audience."—Publishers Weekly
  • "A carefully constructed history of wide interest to students of American politics."—Kirkus
  • "Erika Lee wants us to remember that xenophobia has always been a troubling part of the American narrative. Lee offers a sweeping record of xenophobia in the U.S., highlighting the different ways minority groups have been humiliated, discriminated against and even deported."—Time
  • "As Erika Lee brilliantly shows, xenophobia has forever been an integral part of American racism. Forcing us to confront this history as we confront its present, America for Americans is essential reading for anyone who wants to build a more inclusive society."—Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times-bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
  • "America for Americans is unflinching and powerful. Through extensive research and crystal clear prose, Erika Lee has masterfully tracked the phenomenon of xenophobia and its devastating effects on this nation's democracy and its people. Spurred on by unscrupulous politicians and key segments of the press, the cadence of fear, racism, and policy violence has rained down on immigrants since the colonial period and wreaked havoc on America's laws and claims of moral and human rights leadership. This is a must-read for all who need and want to understand how the 'leader of the free world' came to ban a religion, violate asylum laws, and lock babies in cages."—Carol Anderson, New York Times-bestselling author of White Rage
  • "Erika Lee's America for Americans is an insightful, thought-provoking book that helps us understand why the United States, a 'nation of immigrants,' could be the home to such longstanding and powerful anti-immigrant movements. Anyone who wants to fully understand why Americans are so divided over border walls, asylum policy, and sanctuary cities must read this outstanding book."—Tyler Anbinder, author of City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York
  • "America's xenophobic underbelly is laid bare by Erika Lee's meticulous chronicle, which begins well before 1776, when 'swarms' of Germans in the American colonies were labeled 'scum' and 'criminals,' and then details how those same hateful descriptions have been applied to Irish, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Muslims, and others. This fascinating, timely, and important book makes it possible for us to stop repeating history and instead to build bridges based on our shared immigrant experiences."—Helen Zia, author of Last Boat out of Shanghai
  • "America for Americans is an intellectual tour de force wrapped in a vibrant, accessible narrative. Erika Lee reveals how hostility toward foreigners has profoundly influenced popular imagination and public policy, beginning with agitation over German settlers in early America. The exclusionist rhetoric, practices, and policies so prevalent today are nothing new, but echo back centuries of marking the boundaries of belonging. A timely, eloquent meditation on immigration, Lee's book demonstrates why history matters in understanding the contemporary resurgence of xenophobia and makes plain its shameful consequences (past and present) for individuals and the nation."—Vicki L. Ruiz, author of From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America
  • "The most comprehensive and chilling history of anti-immigrant sentiment in America ever written. With narrative authority and analytic precision, Erika Lee shows how xenophobia has shaped America more than the ideals embodied by the Statue of Liberty. An indispensable and sobering guide to the politics of our own time."—Gary Gerstle, author of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century
  • "A 'nation of immigrants,' America badly needs a history of xenophobia, and in America for Americans, Erika Lee delivers. By distinguishing nativism from xenophobia, she shows how Native Americans and Africans were transformed into foreigners and how that xenophobia fueled racist attacks against immigrants. Neither natural nor inevitable, xenophobia is always promoted by those who benefit from it, and in this courageous book, Lee names the beneficiaries."—Donna Gabaccia, emerita professor of history, University of Toronto

On Sale
Jun 15, 2021
Page Count
480 pages
Basic Books

Erika Lee

About the Author

Erika Lee is a Regents Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, and director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, and President-Elect of the Organization of American Historians. The author of The Making of Asian America and other award-winning books, Lee lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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