There’s Nothing New About Fear

America is a nation of immigrants. Even Donald Trump’s family came from Germany. He did not invent immigration fears, he cynically amplifies them. Keeping immigrants out is an old song. In fact there are many songs about the triumphs of some and horrors of many undocumented laborers and deportees.

In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed by President Chester A. Arthur. It ordered a 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. For the first time, Federal law proscribed entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it endangered the good order of certain localities. The act defined a few excludables as “Chinese employed in mining.” It was not repealed until 1943.

Look back at magazines and newspapers from the turn of the century onward to find articles and cartoons, like the ones here from The Saturday Blade, which crowned itself “America’s Greatest Weekly,” for commentaries on who should and should not be allowed entry. They caution the nation that with immigration comes un-American ideas, too. America is indeed a huge melting pot, but as this cartoon says, the pot has to be cleaned and flushed regularly. Trump is simply drawing from one of the least-admirable U.S. traditions with rhetoric that should be anachronistic by 2016.

 

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