In his investigation of European immigrant "alienation" in The Uprooted, Oscar Handlin characterizes the phenomenon as a hidden boundary between the immigrant and American society. Despite his sensitive, humanistic treatment of the boundaries European immigrants faced, his discussion elides the significance of a different kind of immigration, another hidden boundary, and a similar anti-immigrant movement—that of the African American northern migration. When escaped slaves moved from the South into Pennsylvania, many of the problems that these "immigrants" faced were similar to the ones encountered by European immigrants coming from outside of the country. Despite some shared similarities in the experience of national exclusion, however, there is a different character to each of the anti-immigrant movements that opposed them. Taking the obsessive white animus that beleaguered the career of black heavyweight prizefighter Jack Johnson as a point of departure, I begin to elucidate this difference. The hidden border that Handlin intuits, but does not clearly articulate, is the border of white society and the white nation—internal to the geographic boundary of the United States. If this boundary is difficult for European immigrants to penetrate, I argue that it is even less permeable for black people.

Turning to the contemporary movement against Latino immigration, I note the structural congruence of "immigrant" blacks and immigrant Latinos, including debt servitude, police impunity, and a systematized prison industry. Finally, I suggest that with respect to Latino immigration, the geographic boundary and the white border, or color line, of the United States, have become one.


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