- The Third Asiatic Invasion: Empire and Migration in Filipino America, 1898–1946
In The Third Asiatic Invasion, Rick Baldoz examines “the entanglement of immigration, empire, and citizenship” (p. 9) embodied in the unique history of Filipinos in the United States. Filipinos made up the “third invasion” of Asian immigrants to America, after the Chinese and Japanese immigrants before them; and, like them, Filipinos during the period covered by the book were required for labor but were also assumed to be incapable of assimilation and were racially excluded. What made Filipinos different from the previous two “invasions,” Baldoz explains, is the status of the Philippines as an American colony. As a consequence, Filipinos were given the “anomalous political designation” as U.S. nationals that “placed them in a political twilight zone between citizenship and alienage” (p. 9). Because of their unique status they were afforded certain rights, such as the freedom to travel across the U.S. border and within the country, while they were not citizens; they were not regarded as aliens, not subject to U.S. immigration laws, and could never become citizens. Baldoz analyzes “the sociolegal architecture of American empire” (p. 10) by explicating little-known legal cases and by relating the history of the formation of Filipino communities in the United States, revealing how “American practices of racial exclusion repeatedly collided with the imperatives of U.S. overseas expansion” (p. 10) and labor-market demands.
Baldoz introduces the book with the 1934 case of the interracial marriage of Rafael Lopez de Onate, “a light-skinned mestizo” (p. 1) who was a white-looking movie star, and Eleanor Wilson McAdoo, the daughter of a U.S. senator. Racial proscriptions barred Filipinos from marrying whites, but Lopez de Onate claimed Spanish blood as proof of his “whiteness” to marry. Onate, however, stated that he was born in the Philippines; if he had claimed to be Spanish he could have been legally “white” and been able to marry. The case was “a major scandal at the time” (p. 7), and Onate was denied because he did not qualify as racially pure; he remained a Filipino to the court even though he rejected that designation. This case illustrates “the contentious politics” revolving around Filipino migration to the United States and the ways in which the arrival of Filipinos “confounded authorities charged with enforcing racial and national boundaries” (p. 7).
Baldoz’s history of Filipino community formation and law cases demonstrates that, despite their racial subjection to white supremacy, Filipinos challenged the racial status quo. He argues that their unique [End Page 734] status and the ambiguity of immigration laws emboldened them to challenge the racial hierarchy. He brings together case studies from American colonization in 1898 until Philippine independence in 1946 that have not been synthesized elsewhere. The Third Asiatic Invasion demonstrates Filipino agency during a period in which these “nationals” were often literally invisible (since they were not even counted as immigrants).
Other studies have traced the formation of early Filipino immigrant communities in the United States, but few have examined this history in the context of the intersection of empire, race, and citizenship with such thoroughness and legal acumen. Dorothy B. Fujita-Rony in American Workers, Colonial Power: Philippine Seattle and the Trans-Pacific West, 1919–1941 (2003) and Catherine Ceniza Choy in Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History (2003) have taken on these interrelationships, but not as broadly in terms of legal and political dynamics. Baldoz makes a major contribution that will shape Filipino American history, as well as American history more broadly. The Third Asiatic Invasion covers new ground, fills in neglected aspects of the Filipino American experience, and shines a new light on how dynamics of the early twentieth century affect the debates on race and immigration today.
In the course of the book, Baldoz discusses the incorporation of the Philippines into the American empire, including the political and legal workings to distinguish annexing the Philippines as a...