tv Borderline Citizens CSPAN May 21, 2017 10:07am-10:17am EDT
secured as a free public library. it didn't rely on whether or not someone had the money to subscribe or anything like that. we operate out of a budget that is appropriated to us by the city of trenton, but we are secure in that we will always be a free public library. libraries are an amazing institution within our country. free public libraries, even greater. we have the ability to offer individuals things that they cannot afford or have access to. what's amazing is here in the free public library everyone is equal. it doesn't matter if you're the richest person or if you have personally not a penny to your name. but what's amazing is when you come through the door of a public library, you are equal, and everyone has access to everything. >> we're outside the trenton city museum where c san is --
c-span is learning more about the city's literary scene. up next, we speak with robert mcgreevey on "borderline citizens." >> older industries tended to focus on nation-centered accounts, to is we tended to frame immigration history in terms of the run rooted -- uprooted, the transplanted. and these ideas assumed that migrants crossed a clear boundary, crossing from their home country to the united states. and what i show in my book is that this border was very much constructed between the u.s. and puerto rico and that puerto rican migration is fundamentally shaped by u.s. colonial policy on the island. in the war of 1898, the u.s. invades puerto rico and philippines, and after the war
we will take these territories from spain as part of the treaty of paris. and so puerto rico and the philippines become the first colonies of the united states in the sense that they are defined as unincorporated. and so this means that they're different from, say, arizona, texas, california, other territories that we had acquired that were expected to be future states and its people were expected to be future citizens. in the case of puerto rico, we know from the supreme court ruling in 1901 that puerto rico would not be understood that way legally. and instead, it was defined as an unincorporated territory. and so this is one legal way in which the united states is able to define the island as both parking lot of the united states and also -- part of the united
states and also outside the united states. because the supreme court ruled that the constitution does not extend to the island people because they're defined as unincorporated. so it's, it's almost as if the u.s. is holding the island at kind of arm's length, but yet we're not allowing the people on the island their own sovereignty. racial ideas are also an important part of understanding this, this moment in our history because both imperialists who supported the u.s. occupation and those who opposed it defined their and justified their positions often in racial terms. so, for example, those that supported the u.s. occupation this puerto rico often claimed
that puerto ricans were inferior in intelligence to the chinese and the chinese at this moment were, of course, being excluded with the exclusion acts from the 880s. 1880s. so one reason people were using that kind of argument in congress was because they wanted to be able to placate mainland citizens' fears that if we are to invade a foreign territory, this could open the gates to a stream of migrants into the u.s. mainland. and some congressional leaders appealed to this kind of racial logic saying these people are so inferior to americans that they could never survive in our society. even if they came. others argued that the u.s. congress was so powerful that it would be able to use legislation to limit migration streams from the islands.
so the first challenge we see in the early 1900s when a woman named isabelle gonzalez comes from the island to new york. ask as a pregnant widow, she's immediately labeled likely to become a public charge and detained on ellis island. and eventually, a group of lawyers pick up the case and bring it all the way to the supreme court. and the supreme court rules in the gonzalez case that puerto ricans should be considered u.s. nationals rather than aliens when entering the united states and, therefore, they legally are free of restrictions that would otherwise apply, say, to those coming there rush a shah. so a -- russia. so a u.s. national was defined as free to enter the united states, tree of immigration restriction -- free of immigration restriction, and u.s. nationals were granted the
protection of the u.s. military. but there are very few other rights that were extended to nationals. so, for example, u.s. nationals that came in the u.s. could be denied employment by the federal government because in a series of cases it was made clear that nationals were not eligible for employment with the u.s. government. so the gonzalez case is really a turning point here because by, say, 1904 the united states is now legally bound to admit puerto ricans entering through new york, and this would by extension apply also to filipinos. so the original promise that some in congress had made, you know, that we would be able to control the effects of our colonial policy overseas and limit migration proved to be
untrue in this case. and once puerto ricans are arriving as nationals, they are still, though, subject to xenophobia of all kinds. and we see this especially as we move into the world war i period. as we move into world war i, the u.s. will define puerto ricans actually as u.s. citizens under the jones act x this will start in 1917. i argue in the book that this is partly the result of puerto ricans themselves agitating and mobilizing for u.s. citizenship on the island and in the united states. we see aaway of sugar strikes -- a wave of sugar strikes in puerto rico in 1914, '15, '16 where laborers are calling for u.s. citizenship because they
understood that citizenship would protect their right to unionize x. under spain be, that was a right that was denied them. so they were looking to solidify their rights under the u.s. constitution, and in 1917 president wilson decides that the jones act should be law of the land, that we should declare puerto rican citizens partly because he viewed it as an embarrassment on the global stage, to be fighting a war to make the world safe for democracy when the u.s. was denying basic citizenship rights to puerto ricans. the patterns that i try to trace this my book -- in my book are very much the origins of 20th century and be early 21st century immigration patterns where we see refugees and migrants entering the united states from zones of u.s.
influence. and as americans, we tend to understand immigration in a way that doesn't let us see that, i would say. often americans are inclined to view these migrants as foreigners who do not have a rightful place in our country. and i think there's a real kind of separation of, say, foreign policy on the one hand and immigration policy on the other. and even today in the case of syria, we can see how the trump administration has bombed syria without, without changing our immigration policy to accept more refugees. and so i think that speaks to the fact that immigration and foreign policies are often made in very separate realms. when we look at the history, we