JAEH Archive / Vol. 39, No. 4, Summer 2020

Journal of American Ethnic History

Vol. 39, No. 4, Summer 2020

Special issueUndocumented Histories: Generative Approaches to Undocumented Immigrant Experiences and Immigration Histories

Table of Contents


Undocumented Histories: Generative Approaches to Undocumented Immigrant Experiences and Immigration Histories

By: Ana Elizabeth Rosas

“Trains of Misery”: Repatriate Voices and Responses in Northern Mexico during the Great Depression

By: Laura D. Gutiérrez


During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans left the United States for Mexico. Some hoped they could escape the economic crisis in the United States, while others were forced to leave their homes. For many who traveled via train as part of repatriation campaigns, they had no home or community in Mexico to return to or found themselves stranded in towns and cities along railway routes. In these regions in northern Mexico, resentment against returning migrants intensified as repatriates were increasingly viewed as economic and social disturbances. This article uses letters sent to Mexican presidents from repatriates and from local residents in northern Mexico, newspapers, and oral histories to argue for a deeper analysis of the various stages of forced removal. To better understand the devastating consequences of repatriation as forced removal, we must also look at the methods of transportation used to move migrants and how they shape the emotional, economic, and political ramifications of expulsion.

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“The Freedom of Jail”: Women, Detention, and the Expansion of Immigration Governance along the US–Mexico Border, 1903–1917

By: Celeste R. Menchaca


This article traces the contours of immigrant detention along the US-Mexico border between 1903 and 1917. Underfunded and undersized, privately owned but federally managed immigration stations and detention facilities forced government agencies to consider where to hold an increasing number of detained immigrant women. While debate arose over which detention location allowed the most “freedom,” some women suffered verbal, physical, and sexual abuse during their incarceration. This article draws upon US Bureau of Immigration annual and investigative reports, testimony, leasing agreements, and correspondence to argue that gender was a driving force in the construction of detention rooms and facilities along the border after 1903.

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El Cine Yost and the Power of Place for Mexican Migrants in Orange County, California, 1930–1990

By: David-James Gonzales


This article explores the history of El Cine Yost (The Yost Theater) in Santa Ana, California, and the role of the Louis and Phoebe Olivos Sr. family in creating space for the development of ethnic Mexican identity and community in Orange County, California from 1930 to 1990. Alongside traditional archival materials, this article draws on oral history interviews, photographs, ephemera, and newspaper clippings obtained from the Olivos family and patrons of El Cine Yost to demonstrate the emotional ties that individuals and communities form to space and place, as well as the identities and relationships that emerge out of them. In this people-and-place–centered narrative, I argue that El Cine Yost exemplifies the central connections between space, place, and identity in the lived experiences of ethnic Mexicans across the US-Mexico borderlands. Further, this history disrupts the master narrative of Orange County as a place of Anglo-American/European settler history, which has ignored and left undocumented the affirmative presence and contributions of Latinas/os in the region.

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A Community Decides Who Belongs: Local Democracy and Incorporating the Undocumented in Boyle Heights, 1970s–1990s

By: George J. Sánchez

Archives of Pain, Methodologies of Care: Caring for the “Gold” and “Diamonds” in the 1992 Notes of Al Moreno

By: Mario Alberto Obando Jr.


Charting the familial, emotive, and material histories located in and surrounding the notes taken at the death bed of Al Moreno, this paper explores the cultural memory of the keeper of the notes and niece of Moreno, Janelle Delgado. In defining the notes from her familial archive as treasure, I discuss Delgado as a cultural agent enacting a “methodology of care” where her acts are not frivolous but rather a humane counter act and narrative to the devaluing narratives of immigrant sexual excess and social deviancy so explicitly heightened during the Trump era. The paper asks: what happens to Mexican American identity when the histories of indigeneity and immigration status come to the forefront of familial and cultural memory during an ever-intensified xenophobic national discourse?

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In the Fields of the North/En Los Campos del Norte by David Bacon

By: Devra Anne Weber

Borderlands of Slavery: The Struggle over Captivity and Peonage in the American Southwest by William S. Kiser

By: Paul Conrad

The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad by Gordon H. Chang, Shelley Fisher Fishkin

By: Timothy Dean Draper

Housing the City by the Bay: Tenant Activism, Civil Rights, and Class Politics in San Francisco by John Baranski

By: Pablo Gonzalez

Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America by Matthew Fox-Amato

By: Brian Piper

Accountability Across Borders: Migrant Rights in North America by Xóchitl Bada, Shannon Gleeson

By: Annie Isabel Fukushima

Global Garveyism by Ronald J. Stephens, Adam Ewing

By: Holly Roose

Unfair Labor?: American Indians and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago by David R.M. Beck

By: Christy Thornton

Jim Crow Capital: Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, DC, 1920–1945 by Mary-Elizabeth B. Murphy

By: Crystal M. Moten

Every Nation Has Its Dish: Black Bodies and Black Food in Twentieth-Century America by Jennifer Jensen Wallach

By: Jessica Carbone

Alternate Roots: Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Genealogy Media by Christine Scodari

By: Julie Winch

The Limits of Transnationalism by Nancy L. Green

By: Caroline (Merithew) Waldron

Caging Borders and Carceral States: Incarcerations, Immigration Detentions, and Resistance by Robert T. Chase

By: Jessica Ordaz

Black Utopia: The History of an Idea from Black Nationalism to Afrofuturism by Alex Zamalin

By: Joel Wendland-Liu

Dangerous Neighbors: Making the Haitian Revolution in Early America by James Alexander Dun

By: Ronald Angelo Johnson