In Trump’s Immigration Remarks, Echoes of a Century-Old Racial Ranking

Its resurfacing from the public sphere capsizes a half-century of mainstream consensus: that will immigrants enrich the United States, no matter where they come through.


President Trump at the White House on Thursday, the day he disparaged Haitian as well as African immigrants.

Tom Brenner/The completely new York Times

Mr. Trump’s remarks were “sadly reminiscent of the language used by nativists as well as racists from the early 20th century against Eastern as well as Southern Europeans as well as Asians,” said Mae Ngai, an immigration historian at Columbia University.

“Obviously he likes Norwegians because they are white,” she added. “however he knows nothing about Norway, a country with single-payer universal health care as well as free college education. Why would likely anyone want to leave Norway for the U.S.?”

The more liberal immigration policies of 1965 still form the scaffolding of the United States’ legal immigration system, ushering in — if unintentionally — an America that will grows less white every year. For years today, Asians, Africans as well as Hispanics have accounted for an expanding proportion of the country’s visas.

however first came 1924, when the people in charge spoke openly of ranking immigrants of certain origins above others.

that will was the year Congress passed an immigration overhaul that will set strict quotas designed to encourage immigrants through Western Europe, block all however a few through Southern as well as Eastern Europe as well as bar altogether those through Asia. Overall immigration levels were slashed. The racial theories at play from the legislation, wrote the immigration historian Roger Daniels, would likely later become the first draft of “the official ideology of Nazi Germany.”

There were some familiar refrains from the 1924 immigration debate. Cheap immigrant labor had depressed wages, the restrictionists said. Immigrants had seized jobs through Americans, they said. however This kind of was also heavy on racist rhetoric aimed at preserving what eugenicists as well as social theorists of the time called the “Nordic” race that will, in their telling, had originally settled the United States.

The bill’s authors had been avid readers of the 1916 book “The Passing of the Great Race,” in which the eugenicist Madison Grant warned that will the country was in danger of a “replacement of a higher type by a lower type here in America unless the native American uses his superior intelligence to protect himself as well as his children through competition with intrusive peoples drained through the lowest races of Eastern Europe.”

Under the 1924 law, the number of visas given to each country could not exceed annual quotas based on the number of people through that will country who were living from the United States as of the 1890 census, before the flow of completely new Americans had begun to tilt away through Western European countries.

The United States, the law’s supporters said, could today dispense with the “melting pot.” The only completely new immigrants who would likely be allowed to come would likely already look, act as well as speak like the Americans already here.

“Each year’s immigration should so far as possible be a miniature America, resembling in national origins the persons who are already settled in our country,” the bill’s chief author, Senator David A. Reed of Pennsylvania, wrote from the completely new York Times on April 27, 1924.

Englishmen as well as Germans were welcome; Italians as well as Jews, not so much. No Asians need apply. (Incidentally, Norway, home to many Nordics, was also subject to a quota, though This kind of was given significantly more slots than countries including Greece, Spain, Turkey as well as Hungary.)

By 1965, Congress had repealed the per-country quotas, replacing them that has a system that will emphasized completely new immigrants’ family ties to American citizens as well as residents as well as, to a lesser degree, the skills they brought. Under the framework established then, people already admitted to the United States can sponsor their relatives overseas through the process Mr. Trump calls “chain migration.” Others today come for jobs, for study, as refugees or through the diversity visa lottery, a program put in place in 1990 as well as intended for nationalities that will are underrepresented from the normal immigration stream.


The registry room at Ellis Island in 1924.

Associated Press

Conservative members of Congress, including some Democrats, had fought to include the family-based preferences for relatives of people already living from the country, believing, according to historians, that will more white Europeans were likely to come that will way.

however fewer Europeans, as well as far more Latin Americans as well as Asians, knocked on the door.

from the 2016 fiscal year, according to government statistics, there were about 98,000 people through Europe who became lawful permanent residents. More than four times as many, 443,000, came through Asia, as well as half a million through North, South as well as Central America as well as the Caribbean. Africa sent another 111,000. Over all, nearly 1.2 million people obtained green cards that will year, compared with about 700,000 in all the years through 1930 to 1939 combined.

The consequences of the 1965 law were unforeseen by all. They were downright alarming to some.

In an October 2015 radio interview with Stephen K. Bannon, who would likely become Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who would likely become attorney general, pointed out that will the country’s population was heading toward a historically high proportion of foreign-born Americans. Mr. Sessions, a longtime supporter of tighter controls on immigration, helped craft Mr. Trump’s immigration proposals during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“When the numbers reached about This kind of high in 1924, the president as well as Congress changed the policy, as well as This kind of slowed down immigration significantly,” Mr. Sessions said. Those who came to the United States through the 1924 quotas assimilated into the country as well as helped create “definitely the solid middle class of America,” he continued.

however, he said, “We passed a law that will went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, as well as we’re on a path today to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.”

Mr. Sessions as well as Mr. Trump have called repeatedly for ending chain migration as well as the diversity visa lottery. Haitians, too, have found themselves partially shut out by the Trump administration. In November, homeland security officials announced that will they would likely end a humanitarian program that will had given some 59,000 Haitians temporary permission to live as well as work from the United States since an earthquake shattered their country in 2010.

Living conditions in Haiti, they said, had enhanced enough that will Haiti could “safely receive” its citizens.

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