Legal historians: Find a window to read Rose Cuison Villazor’s “The Other Loving,” published in the NYU Law Review last fall. Although Villazor, Associate Professor of Law at Hofstra, does not identify primarily as a legal historian, she has written more than one historical work well worth a read. An earlier article examined alien land laws in the United States, telling the story of Oyama v. California (1948), which held unconstitutional a provision of California’s Alien Land Law that discriminated against owners of property bought by parents who were ineligible to become U.S. citizens. This more recent article, in turn, explores how immigration, citizenship, and military statutes and regulations in the period around World War II interacted to produce federal anti-miscegenation law, with both domestic and extraterritorial effects. Carefully researched and engagingly written, Villazor’s article seeks to challenge the conventional view that legal restrictions on marriage have traditionally been the sole domain of state, not federal, law—with implications for historical scholarship and for current political debates.
Villazor opens the piece with the story of Helene and John Bouiss, a half-Japanese, half-German woman and her white American husband, who in the spring of 1946 arrived in Seattle, Washington aboard a military ship, having been married at sea by the captain days earlier. Despite the passage of the so-called War Brides Act the year before, officials stopped Helene at the border on the ground that immigration law prohibited the entry of persons ineligible to become U.S. citizens. At the time, U.S. law put citizenship off-limits to persons identified as belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups, including Japanese. Helene, a Swedish citizen on the basis of a prior marriage, was a person of “mixed racial blood,” including that of a citizenship-ineligible group, in the eyes of the relevant immigration regulations; she was therefore covered by the prohibition. Her marriage to a U.S. citizen soldier honorably discharged from the military did not help; nor did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the exclusion. (The case never made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.) Continue reading "Love and War"