Schoolchildren are often presented with religious freedom as a blanket reason underpinning immigration to the Americas. Salem’s three-volume work addresses not only those earliest colonists, but reflects the wide range of factors influencing human geography from prehistory to the present day. Articles sort immigration both by national groups and by ethnicities. The historical settlement of each state is also described, including social and technical aspects of relocation.
The books contain much standard historic fodder surrounding immigration, such as the Molly Maguires and El Paso incident of 1948, but also reach back to ancient traffic across the Bering strait. More modern phenomena include relatively small-scale human traffic drawn to utopian communities. Articles profile individual immigrants who made significant contributions to American life, ranging from Albert Einstein to Arianna Huffington. The treatment of immigrants within the larger social contexts of education, employment and health care are addressed chronologically and demonstrate changing cultural mores.
In its more theoretical moments, Salem’s work balances a practical look at contemporary illegal immigration with assimilation theories and the sometimes mutable concepts of citizenship and borders. There is also a discussion of the modern naturalization process as well as post-9/11 immigration policies. The emphasis on immigrant culture includes a discussion of the maintenance of ethnic ties through foodways, foreign-language presses, and the depictions of immigration in films, with The Godfather trilogy warranting its own article. There are entries on eugenics, model minorities, the Mariel boatlift, and "chain migration," which is a pattern where an established arrival sends for families and friends to join him. Each represents a potential student research topic. The emphasis on culture is such that the volumes will provide a resource for media studies of niche cable providers Univision and Telemundo. One entry entitled "name changes" challenges one popular misconception about the immigration process. Immigration officers relied upon ship’s manifests for immigrant’s personal information, including the spelling and pronunciation of the immigrants’ names, undermining the conceit that many family names were altered "at Ellis Island." The absence of an article about the persistence of Francophone pockets in the United States is one omission.
There are high-quality archival black-and-white photographs throughout, taken from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, and news wires. The work is well-indexed, with the third volume providing access points to laws and treaties, personal names, as well as a forty-page subject index with articles categorized by subjects such as nativism, language issues, and agricultural workers. The indexes, like the cross-references to other articles that conclude each entry, are invaluable for linking to related information. There are also glossaries, a bibliography and a filmography, thumbnail biographies of notable immigrants, and historical overviews of U.S. Supreme Court rulings related to immigration. as with all Salem Press articles, purchase of the print product entitles access to an electronic version through activation codes found in the backs of the books, which makes them an especially attractive purchase for libraries moving into ebooks. Recommended for school and public libraries.