Immigration law’s racial architecture
in (B)ordering Britain
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Chapter 2 provides an account of the emergence of the legal category of alien and questions the idea that there is a clear distinction between the categories of subject and alien in colonial contexts. The legal category of alien contributed to the institutionalisation of a hierarchy of people in a context of British colonial expansion. Immigration laws passed in the colonies which targeted racialised subjects were at times clumsily disguised through the use of apparently race-neutral provisions. Such concealment of racism was in the service of maintaining the lie of the unity of the British Empire. In the early 1900s, mirroring immigration legislation in the colonies, the 1905 Aliens Act was passed in Britain with the purpose of preventing the entry of poor Jewish people fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe. Although British subjects in the colonies were not its targets, it was a product of the British Empire and legislators did not forget its mechanisms when it came to the task of drafting future immigration legislation targeted at racialised colony and Commonwealth citizens.

(B)ordering Britain

Law, race and empire


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