Free to Move? The Law and Politics of Internal Migration in Twentieth-Century America

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Free to Move? The Law and Politics of Internal Migration in Twentieth-Century America

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Title: Free to Move? The Law and Politics of Internal Migration in Twentieth-Century America
Author: Minoff, Elisa Martia Alvarez
Citation: Minoff, Elisa Martia Alvarez. 2013. Free to Move? The Law and Politics of Internal Migration in Twentieth-Century America. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: The history of the United States in the mid-twentieth century is, in significant measure, a history of internal migration. Between 1930 and 1970, as national quota laws kept the nation's foreign-born population at record low levels, the attention of journalists, lawmakers, jurists, social workers, civil rights activists, and the broader public turned to internal migration. The rapid pace of urbanization and the industrialization of agriculture made internal migration a pressing national question and a flashpoint in American politics. Migration was implicated in many of the seminal events of the era: from the Dust Bowl Migration to the Second Great Migration, the New Deal to the Great Society, the Bonus Army to the Watts Riots. Historians have largely overlooked this period of intense interest in internal migration and they have entirely neglected its significance. This dissertation offers the first historical appraisal of the law and politics of internal migration in the mid-twentieth century. Drawing on a broad source base—including federal and state court casefiles, the records of Congress and presidential administrations, personal and organizational papers, and contemporary published accounts—it explains how the debates over migration took shape and what their long-term effects were for policy and polity. During this period, a community of migrant advocates recommended fundamental reforms to social welfare and labor market policies. These social workers, legislators, public welfare officials, social scientists, and lawyers often faced indifference and resistance from lawmakers and the general public. They were not able to accomplish all that they hoped. But they convinced Congress and the Supreme Court to reform central pillars of the welfare state and redefine citizenship. At the beginning of the period, migrants, like all Americans, were defined by law and custom as local citizens, and local laws determined whether they could receive benefits or even move from one place to the next. By the end of the period, migrant advocates had convinced policymakers that the federal government bore some responsibility for migrants and that migrants, as national citizens, were entitled to the same rights and privileges as long-time residents. The contemporary welfare state and conception of national citizenship emerged out of these debates over internal migration.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11095954
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