The United States, Puerto Rico, and the Politics of Colonial Migration
The United States in the World
Published by: Cornell University Press
264 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 9 b&w halftones, 1 map
- ISBN: 9781501764608
- Published: April 2022
Borderline Citizens explores the intersection of U.S. colonial power and Puerto Rican migration. Robert C. McGreevey examines a series of confrontations in the early decades of the twentieth century between colonial migrants seeking work and citizenship in the metropole and various groups—employers, colonial officials, court officers, and labor leaders—policing the borders of the U.S. economy and polity. Borderline Citizens deftly shows the dynamic and contested meaning of American citizenship.
At a time when colonial officials sought to limit citizenship through the definition of Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans tested the boundaries of colonial law when they migrated to California, Arizona, New York, and other states on the mainland. The conflicts and legal challenges created when Puerto Ricans migrated to the U.S. mainland thus serve, McGreevey argues, as essential, if overlooked, evidence crucial to understanding U.S. empire and citizenship.
McGreevey demonstrates the value of an imperial approach to the history of migration. Drawing attention to the legal claims migrants made on the mainland, he highlights the agency of Puerto Rican migrants and the efficacy of their efforts to find an economic, political, and legal home in the United States. At the same time, Borderline Citizens demonstrates how colonial institutions shaped migration streams through a series of changing colonial legal categories that tracked alongside corporate and government demands for labor mobility. McGreevey describes a history shaped as much by the force of U.S. power overseas as by the claims of colonial migrants within the United States.
Introduction: Migration and Empire
1. America's Caribbean Frontier
2. The Rise of National Status
3. Labor Networks
4. Citizenship and Statelessness
5. "Working People Going North"
6. Colonial Migrants in New York
Conclusion: U.S. Empire and the Boundaries of the Nation
"Borderline Citizens is a timely and accessible historical account of the entanglement of US imperialism, law, and Puerto Rican migration. As thousands of Puerto Ricans remain without relief a year after Hurricane María, Borderline Citizens is at once a cautionary tale of the disenfranchising effects of US imperialism and a reminder of the ferocity of a people in the face of injustice."~Choice
"With its combination of creative research, incisive argument, and timely contribution, Borderline Citizens would be an excellent text for graduate courses in immigration and in the history of the United States and the World. For scholars of empire and migration, this should be essential reading."~H-Net
"Borderline Citizens offers new and provoca- tive interpretations that deepen our understanding of U.S. Empire and Puerto Rican migration. The book is a timely contribution to an ongoing debate about colonialism and the legal status of Puerto Rico, making it a required reading to anyone interested in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Empire, and colonialism in general."~Diplomatic History
"This is a well-researched, detailed, and informative book that valuably contributes to the study of early twentieth-century Puerto Rican emigration to Hawaii and the States."~American Historical Review
"Borderline Citizens is a must-read for scholars interested in colonial migrations, empire, and citizenship."~Journal of American Ethnic History
"By bridging legal and labor histories, and using a transnational approach rooted in extensive archival research in Puerto Rico and the United States, McGreevey illuminates the intersections between political marginalization and economics incorporating that created "borderline" citizenship. He provides historical nuance to the roles of organized labor and labor migrations to Hawaii, the southern states, and Arizona. Hopefully these significant contributions will be fully integrated into U.S. history."~The Journal of American History
"Robert C. McGreevey's Borderline Citizens offers a very useful contribution to the labor history of Puerto Rico and its diaspora. Borderline Citizens stands as an important addition to the historical scholarship that, hopefully, will encourage greater engagement on the part of U.S. historians with the problematics of empire in Puerto Rico."~Centro
"McGreevey demonstrates skill in contextualizing the debates and overlapping concerns about migration, political rights, and the role of the US Constitution in colonial ventures. He provides enough historical background about Puerto Rico that nonspecialists may grasp the contours of the subject, but the book is rooted enough in US historical narratives that it could easily be assigned in US graduate or undergraduate courses."~Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas
"McGreevey's book helps us to sharpen our analysis of the ever-shifting boundaries of citizenship at a time when we are witnessing a resurgence of the kinds of public debates around fitness that we saw at the turn of the twentieth century, and which are powerfully captured in Borderline Citizens."~Law and History Review