Thoughtful books can be instructive even when wrong. These recent books tell us something about our current challenges, though they’re not even thoughtful.

Threat of Dissent is the more scholarly and the more readable of the two. Julia Rose Kraut, a lawyer and historian, has gathered up a lot of stories about how U.S. immigration law has been used to deport unwelcome aliens or stop them from ever entering the United States in the first place. Her particular political focus is “ideological exclusion” in different eras, so the book is a sort of scrapbook of ideological anxieties over the course of American history.

She begins in the 1790s with fears of agitators from Revolutionary France. A certain kind of conservative will be grateful for the inclusion of this observation by President John Adams, when telling his secretary of state to deny passports to a delegation of French “philosophers”: “We have had too many French philosophers already and I really begin to…suspect, that learned academies, not under immediate inspection and control of government, have disorganized the world, and are incompatible with social order.”

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Kraut invites readers to be indignant about such intolerance. Successive chapters

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