Friday, September 8, 2017
Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker ("Trump’s Move to End DACA and Echoes of the Immigration Act of 1924") argues that, for President Trump,
"the real target is the world created by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which eliminated the racialist immigration quotas that were set by the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Johnson-Reed Act. Johnson-Reed was born of familiar concerns: a fear that the nation was endangered by a tide of questionable newcomers, many of whom held secret allegiances to hostile foreign forces. Writers such as Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard agitated public fears that whites—a category that was far less inclusive than our current understanding of it—were on the verge of being outnumbered. Those fears, as Linda Gordon, a history professor at New York University, notes in her new book, “The Second Coming of the KKK,” formed the basis for the populist resentments that eventually shaped the politics of the era. Gordon writes of William Simmons, the architect of the Ku Klux Klan’s revival in the nineteen-twenties, that by “engendering and exploiting fear, he would warn that ‘degenerative’ forces were destroying the American way of life. These were not only black people but also Jews, Catholics and immigrants.”
The 1924 act regulated immigration by allowing only a two-per-cent increase of any given ethnic group’s numbers each year. But, rather than using the most recent census, from 1920, to determine the immigration totals, the act referred to the 1890 census—a neat means of avoiding the swell of immigrants, designated as undesirable, from Southern and Eastern Europe, not to mention from Asia, who had arrived in the United States mostly in the intervening years. The policy was so defiantly and arrogantly racist that, as James Q. Whitman, a professor at Yale Law School, writes in “Hitler’s American Model,” it earned praise from Adolf Hitler. “The American Union categorically refuses immigration of unhealthy elements, and simply excludes the immigration of certain races,” Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf.” This, he said, made the country a leader in preserving racial purity through immigration policy. The Johnson-Reed Act largely held sway for forty-one years, until, amid the democratizing ethos of the civil-rights era, immigration policy fully shed the racial engineering that had previously defined it. This is the world that Trump seems to be attempting to resurrect."