Andrew S. Rosenberg, "Undesirable Immigrants: Why Racism Persists in International Migration" (Princeton UP, 2022)


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The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 officially ended the explicit prejudice in American immigration policy that began with the 1790 restriction on naturalization to free White persons of “good character.” By the 1980s, the rest of the Anglo-European world had followed suit, purging discriminatory language from their immigration laws and achieving what many believe to be a colorblind international system. Undesirable Immigrants: Why Racism Persists in International Migration (Princeton UP, 2022) challenges this notion, revealing how racial inequality persists in global migration despite the end of formally racist laws.

In this eye-opening book, Andrew Rosenberg argues that while today’s leaders claim that their policies are objective and seek only to restrict obviously dangerous migrants, these policies are still correlated with race. He traces how colonialism and White supremacy catalyzed violence and sabotaged institutions around the world, and how this historical legacy has produced migrants that the former imperial powers and their allies now deem unfit to enter. Rosenberg shows how postcolonial states remain embedded in a Western culture that requires them to continuously perform their statehood, and how the closing and policing of international borders has become an important symbol of sovereignty, one that imposes harsher restrictions on non-White migrants.

Drawing on a wealth of original quantitative evidence, Undesirable Immigrants demonstrates that we cannot address the challenges of international migration without coming to terms with the brutal history of colonialism.

Andrew Rosenberg is an assistant of political science at the University of Florida. His research examines racial inequality in the international system, the politics of migration, and global inequality. His current projects empirically break down the ideologies that maintain racial inequality in international migration. His research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, Political Analysis, and Security Dialogue. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Ohio State University and is originally from Des Moines, Iowa.

Lamis Abdelaaty is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She is the author of Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees (Oxford University Press, 2021). Email her comments at or tweet to @LAbdelaaty.

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