https://www.sss.ias.edu/files/papers/paper38.pdf When it was first published in 1958, A Nation of Immigrants articulated an ethos of cultural pluralism that was regarded as a truism of American historical experience; the concept was—and still is—believed to be as old as the nation itself. In fact “a nation of immigrants” is a twentieth century idea and one that became embraced by the mainstream only after World War II. But, its simplicity and putative timelessness give it a protean character, so it is easily invoked by diverse interests in contemporary immigration debates. I suggest that by historicizing “a nation of immigrants” as a concept produced by cold war and civil rights politics, as an archetype of twentieth century racial liberalism, we gain access to an understanding of how the modern regime of immigration policy was constructed. The political force behind Kennedy’s publication A Nation of Immigrants was the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, one of the leading Jewish civil rights organizations in the United States. During the 1950s, the ADL engaged in a vigorous campaign to eliminate all vestiges of anti-Semitism in American society. Although increasing numbers of American Jews after World War II enjoyed middle-class status, they continued to face discrimination in the housing market, in higher education, in the professions, and in other walks of life. The ADL considered immigration policy particularly repugnant, on account of the blatantly racist quotas that were imposed on immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe in the 1920s.