My interest in immigration history and policy arose from my transnational family background. Born in Italy to Irish parents, I spent a great deal of time in Ireland after we moved to the U.S. and experienced firsthand the consequences of a post-World War II Irish diaspora. Some members of my extended family remained in Galway, but others emigrated to Canada, England, Australia, and the U.S. A semester spent in Kenya broadened my global perspective, though I ultimately chose to study U.S. history at the graduate level. My first book focused on how American Catholic immigrants and their children participated in the larger Progressive Era social reform movement. I focused extensively on women's roles in Catholic social reform, and the ways that their intellectual and religious motivations differed from those of better-known reformers such as Jane Addams and others influenced by the Protestant Social Gospel. That research deepened my interest in analyzing how immigration laws were interpreted according to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and class and within the context of larger social and economic trends.My second project analyzes the role of federal immigration policy in shaping American concepts of citizenship. Rather than focusing on the experiences of one or two ethnic groups, I compare groups from a broader range of countries and blend a macro-history, policy-oriented approach with a micro-history one that highlights specific individuals and their deportation cases. Many of my sources are located at the National Archives, but I also draw from archival collections in New York and Minneapolis. I examine the crucial role of immigrant advocates, such as those representing the Hebrew Immigrant Assistance Society (HIAS) and Foreign Language Information Service (FLIS) in negotiating between the rights of immigrants and the implementation of immigration policy. There are striking parallels between contemporary moves to control and to restrict immigration and the efforts undertaken during the Progressive and New Deal eras. Several current immigration issues originate from much earlier debates over federal immigration policy. For example the 2006 immigrant rights rallies renewed long-standing debates about what rights immigrants possess under the U.S. Constitution and in the workplace. As early as 1910, Muslim immigrants faced exclusion and deportation as a result of their religious beliefs, which were considered incompatible with American values. More recently, welfare reform legislation passed during the Clinton Administration disqualifying immigrants from social and educational assistance echoed early twentieth century efforts to limit the number of immigrants receiving economic assistance through the Likely to Become a Public Charge (LPC) provision. The ways that gender ideologies have influenced immigration patterns, policy, and specifically deportation efforts, are a particular focus of my research. Many Progressive reformers in both the U.S. and Europe viewed international prostitution as a major threat to sexual and family morality and lobbied for the restriction and deportation of females suspected of immigrating for immoral purposes. More often, women also faced deportation under the Likely to Become a Public Charge provision (LPC). Immigration officials routinely categorized women who immigrated outside of nuclear families as economic dependents, even when they possessed employment skills. Taken together, such laws severely compromised single female immigrants' ability to immigrate to the U.S. By examining how gender issues have influenced U.S. immigration policy, historians and policy makers can better understand the impact those policies have had on immigrant family formation, work patterns, and community development.


B.A. (1984) in Government, St. Lawrence University; Ph.D. (1995) and M.A. (1989) History, University of Wisconsin--Madison


Immigration,U.S. History,U.S. Studies,Women's History (U.S.)


  • Coordinator for Postgraduate Fellowships and Scholarships and Affiliate Faculty, History Department and Women's Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, July 2005-present
  • Associate Professor of History, St. Francis University, Loretto, PA, 2001-05; Assistant Professor, 1995-2001
  • Dean of General Education, St. Francis University, 2004-05


U.S. immigration history and policy, American social history from 1880-1960, women's history

Project Summary

My project is a broad historical analysis of United States immigration deportation policy from 1882 until 1960. Deportation policy has served as a social filter, by defining eligibility for citizenship in the United States and shaping the composition of the American population. Immigration policy has always been intertwined with larger social concerns about foreign policy and national security, the economy, scientific and medical trends, morality, and attitudes about gender, class, race and ethnicity, and citizenship. My project places several contemporary issues in historical and transnational perspective by examining immigrant exclusion and deportation policy in the United States, comparing trends among immigrants from Mexico, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Major Publications

  • American Catholic Lay Groups and Transatlantic Social Reform in the Progressive Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).
  • "Women, Sexual Morality, and Economic Dependency in Early Deportation Policy," Journal of Women's History vol. 18, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 95-122.
  • "A Transatlantic Reform: The Boston Port Protection Program and Irish Women Immigrants," Journal of American Ethnic History v. 19, no. 1 (Fall 1999): 50-66.