Organizing for Immigrant Rights in the Twentieth CenturyRachel Ida Buff
Despite being characterized as a “nation of immigrants,” the United States has seen a long history of immigrant rights struggles. In her timely book Against the Deportation Terror, Rachel Ida Buff uncovers this multiracial history. She traces the story of the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born (ACPFB) from its origins in the 1930s through repression during the early Cold War, to engagement with “new” Latinx and Caribbean immigrants in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Functioning as a hub connecting diverse foreign-born communities and racial justice advocates, the ACPFB responded to various, ongoing crises of what they called “the deportation terror.” Advocates worked against repression, discrimination, detention, and expulsion in migrant communities across the nation at the same time as they supported reform of federal immigration policy. Prevailing in some cases and suffering defeats in others, the story of the ACPFB is characterized by persistence in multiracial organizing even during periods of protracted repression.
By tracing the work of the ACPFB and its allies over half a century, Against the Deportation Terror provides important historical precedent for contemporary immigrant rights organizing. Its lessons continue to resonate today.
"In Against the Deportation Terror , Rachel Buff brings to light a critical but forgotten legacy of multiracial immigrant rights organizing and advocacy. This compelling and timely history provides lessons and insights valuable to today's efforts to counteract mass detention and deportation of a new generation of immigrants."
—Eunice Hyunhye Cho, immigrant rights attorney and advocate
"Against the Deportation Terror makes a significant contribution to the historiography of immigration, citizenship, and noncitizenship. Buff's revisionist history of the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born (ACPFB) provides the framework for her larger argument about the political mobilization of noncitizens within the increasingly repressive immigration regime between the 1920s and the early 1960s. The ACPFB's history is vital to an understanding of the historical roots of the contemporary immigrants' rights movement. This book will play a major role in the burgeoning scholarship on the history of the multinational ‘American Left’ in the twentieth century." —David Gutiérrez, Professor of History at the University of California–San Diego and author of Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity
"Buff has written a daring scholarly effort to reclaim history by exposing a spectrum of initiatives by immigrant advocates across racial, ethnic, religious, income, and social status to demand rights for immigrants.... The volume examines the experiences of less well-known immigrants and efforts to support claims for residency and against deportation. Each vignette is riveting.... Given the current political climate and deportation as immigration policy, the book offers insight into the long game of political mobilization. Summing Up: Highly recommended." —Choice
"(A) deeply researched and fascinating account.... Buff argues convincingly that this self-consciously radical organization... offered a model of how transethnic coalitions of people with disparate backgrounds and experiences could come together around a common opposition to the use of anti-immigrant policies as political instruments. That is a timely conclusion."
— Journal of American History
"Against the Deportation Terror contributes an important chapter to the largely hidden history of immigrant rights activism in the United States. While most immigration history focuses on either immigrants themselves or immigration policy, this book sheds light on immigrants and non-immigrants working together to push back against deportation. It speaks to students of both immigration policy and social movements. And it raises critical questions about the strategy and effectiveness of immigration advocacy. No doubt the conditions in which the ACPFB operated have changed—but still much can be learned from its experience. This is the kind of history book that pushes us to build bridges between seemingly distant historical eras. It is the kind of history book that non-historians will find useful. One cannot read it without wondering what the history of the present-day fight against 'deportation terror' will read like in the future." — Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books
"Buff’s book will do much more than fill a gap. This is not a book that could have been written within the framework of traditional history. She has mastered and synthesized debates and theories across a range of disciplines including US history, immigration history, ethnic studies, cultural studies, sociology, and anthropology – and has skillfully illuminated the tensions and contradictions among these fields.... Buff’s book makes an important contribution to our understanding of immigration and the relational construction of race."
— Journal of American Studies
The Insubordinate Spaces series, edited by George Lipsitz, is a home for books that resist and rethink the increasingly outsized power market forces wield over public and private life and over the rules and assumptions of scholarly investigation and discourse. The series seeks to explore the origins and evolution of these contemporary and historical subordinating institutions and practices, as well as emergent insubordinate social spaces and institutions crafted to resist market imperatives and provide alternatives to them in the form of new publics, new polities, and new politics.