• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy

The condemnation of Trump’s remarks on immigration has been swift and widespread. Most of the denunciations cast his ideas as seriously out of line with American ideals on immigration. The problem is that they aren’t really. From the very beginning of our nation, there has been a white nationalist core driving our immigration priorities. Even as we struggled to be a “nation of immigrants,” most of the people we allowed in were chosen on the basis of national origin from the “whitest” parts of Europe.

The first US naturalization law of 1790 required that anyone who wanted to become a citizen had to be a “free white person.” At its start, the Framers envisioned the US as a political society for members of a specific racial caste. This requirement stayed in place until the mid-20th century.

In 1924, the US passed the Johnson Reed Act, one of the most significant comprehensive immigration reform bills in our history. It limited the number of immigrants each year and those allowed were selected on the basis of their country of origin. Immigrants from North and Western Europe (such as Norway) had almost no restrictions on entering, while Southern and Eastern European immigrants were severely controlled. Immigration from Asia had been almost completely prohibited for several decades by this point.

The shocking issue with the act is its little known origin story. The law was the brainchild of a notorious white supremacist named Madison Grant. In 1916, Grant wrote a book, The Passing of the Great Race, which argued that the truly white people in the US, the Nordics, were at risk of going extinct because of the massive influx of Poles, Italians, Greeks, and Jews who Grant did not consider white. Grant’s book became a bestseller and reading groups were formed among members of Congress. Grant chaired the committee to advise Congress on immigration. The result was Johnson Reed. Grant went on to inspire the Racial Integrity Act for the state of Virginia that prohibited interracial marriage. It was widely copied throughout the US. So for almost 40 years of the 20th century, US immigration policy and marriage law was specifically designed to create a white majority population.

Congress didn’t remove this system until 1965, replacing it with one that shifted the demographic makeup of most immigrants. Since 1965, the large bulk of immigrants have been from Asia and Latin America. The new policies today favor creating a diverse pool of immigrants rather than one based on national origins, and they encourage immigrants, once here, to bring their family members from their former home countries in a process called “chain migration.”

Trump’s remarks, and the policy proposals on immigration that he has released in the past year, indicate that he wishes to return US immigration policy to the way it was under Grant. Clearly, his preference for individuals from Scandinavia versus Africa or Latin America would have pleased Grant immensely.

Trump’s advisors have also proposed to reduce the total number of immigrants that can enter each year and those allowed would be selected by a merit system. Those immigrants demonstrating English proficiency and the right job skills would have a preference. This obviously will favor immigrants from those countries with the educational systems that can give people experience with the American way of life. Such a system will drastically limit immigration from Latin America, Asia, and Africa by eliminating chain migration.

About a century ago, Americans struggled to find a language to describe what a multicultural, racially diverse, and democratic society would look like. One group of progressive thinkers, led by figures such as John Dewey, Alain Locke, and Jane Addams, urged us to imagine a nation where immigrants were not forced to assimilate to a single mold, but encouraged to keep their traditions and enlarge the possibilities of what it means to be an American. This theme is missing from public discussions on immigration today. But if we are looking to the past for hints today about what to do with our immigration policy that do not involve reinventing a white nationalist vision, then perhaps this is a conversation we need to remember.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail