Allan Colbern (United States)

May 2014 – March 2015

Allan Colbern is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. His dissertation, “From American Slavery to Immigration: Developments in Regulating Borders, Movement, and Access to Resources,” analyzes the political development of American immigration law over time, by exploring developments in regulatory power over movement (entry/exit and internal movement) and access to residency, labor and public resources. Highlighting a range of identity documents throughout American history (slave and freedmen passes, early passport and visa policies, and state driver licenses and city ID cards today), his dissertation argues that these travel documents and legal restrictions are not only functionally related to one another, but they also reflect developments in American federalism, state capacity, political economy, race and ethnicity. His dissertation is divided into two parts. Part I argues that early slavery law established America’s earliest comprehensive de facto immigration law through state and municipal governments, including laws restricting international and inter-state entry/exit as well as powers to define black (slave and freedmen) legal status and deport blacks. Part II builds a historical comparison between antebellum northern free states’ regulations over blacks (1780-1865) and contemporary states’ regulations over immigrants (1986-Today). By placing contemporary immigration law, particularly highlighting increased state and municipal legal dimensions to immigration law, his dissertation contributes an original account for how regulatory power over entry, movement, and access to resources developed at local and state levels during the antebellum period through laws regulating both slaves and freedmen in the slave south and free north. His dissertation also explores the role of American federalism for the development of regulatory power, analyzing contests between federal, state, and municipal government over time.
“From American Slavery to Immigration: Developments in Regulating Borders, Movement, and Access to Resources”