New Colonies & Territories Shape Migration


United States

Citizenship Migrations Race & Ethnicity

In the 1890s, overseas imperial expansion brought new flows of migrants to and from the continental U.S., raising great debates about race, citizenship, and democratic participation. As the boundaries of the United States expanded with the annexation of Hawaii and control over the previous Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, questions of whether inhabitants of these new U.S. territories would be imperial subjects or U.S. citizens rose to the forefront of these debates. In a series of Supreme Court cases from 1901 to 1905, known as the Insular Cases, the formerly Spanish colonies were deemed “insular territories” and denied U.S. citizenship. In the face of significant indigenous resistance, Hawaii became an “incorporated territory,” fully covered by the Constitution. Citizenship was granted to all, but the Asian immigrant laborers who resided on the islands of Hawaii, which had a large white population at the time of annexation.