Written by Steven Spear, Jr.
President Trump signed an executive order on Friday banned immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries, and protests are happening in the John F. Kennedy Airport and around the country. People seemed to be surprised. We must have forgotten that this action is completely in line with his campaign rhetoric.
Referring to Trump’s ban, Hillary Clinton tweeted, “This is not who we are.” I assumed that she was right, and that the United States had always presented itself as pro-immigrant. After doing some research, I realized that my history classes chose not to inform me of the United States’ unashamed, anti-immigrant stance that prevailed for almost one hundred years. Here are the major points in the history of U.S. immigration policy:
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act became the United States’ first law prohibiting immigration from a country.
After the physical, social, and economic destruction caused by World War I, many northern and western Europeans emigrated to the United States. In response to this, the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 reformed American immigration policy by creating the National Origins Formula. This new immigration rule set ethnic quotas with a three-percent, per-country limit according to the 1910 census.
Here’s an example: if there were 1,000,000 people with French ancestry living in the United States at the time of the 1910 census, only 30,000 immigrants (3% of 1,000,000) can be accepted from France per year. Another example: if there were 100,000 Irish people living in the United States at the time of the 1910 census, only 3,000 immigrants (3% of 100,000) can be accepted from Ireland per year.
The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 used a three-percent limit with the 1910 census. The Immigration Act of 1924 created even stricter immigration rules by using a two-percent limit with the 1890 census. The new rule was meant to severely restrict immigrants from Asia, Africa, and southern and eastern Europe. “Preserving the ideal of American homogeneity” was the purpose of the law according to the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Historian. In other words, immigration must be prevented or American values will be corrupted.
After sixty-one years, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 overhauled immigration law. The ethnic quotas (the percentages) were banned as a way of regulating immigration, but a limit of 170,000 immigrants per year was established. The law also created preference categories of immigrants:
- unmarried sons or unmarried daughters of United States citizens
- spouses, unmarried sons, or unmarried daughters of permanent residents
- those who because of their exceptional ability in the sciences or the arts will substantially benefit prospectively the national economy, cultural interests, or the welfare of the United States
- married sons or married daughters of United States citizens
- brothers or sisters of United States citizens
- those who are capable of performing specified skilled or unskilled labor, not of a temporary or seasonal nature, for which a shortage of employable and willing persons exists in the United States
The Immigration Act of 1990 lifted the immigrant-limit to 700,000 per year.
In 2014, then-President Barack Obama used his executive authority to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation by creating two programs: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). These orders allowed almost half of illegal immigrants to work and/or get an education in the United States. Twenty-six states correctly claimed that these programs were an overreach of the President’s authority and sued the Obama administration. After a district court suspended DAPA, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court, and because their decision was tied at 4-4, DAPA will remain suspended.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order titled: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The order banned all citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days (all of these are Muslim-majority countries); the number of refugees that may enter the U.S. in fiscal year 2017 was capped to 50,000 (75,000 are admitted every year on average); the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) was suspended for 120 days; and citizens from Syria have been indefinitely banned from entering the United States “until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”
As we now know, the United States having a pro-immigrant attitude is relatively new. Here’s the nagging question: Is closing our borders to certain people and ensuring the national security of the United States worth denying a life-changing opportunity to people who are stuck in war-torn regions and victims of human rights abuses?
Before you answer that question, let’s find out just how detrimental these immigrants have been to the national security of the United States. Continue reading here