Opinion: Closing the Door on Immigration, Bad Idea 100 Years Later

The last time America’s immigration door closed it wasn’t slammed but nudged until it clicked shut. Fast-forward 100 years we see the same thing happening today.

The difference is today we have hindsight and hard data that tells us not to shut that door.

The sealing off of America began with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Chinese immigrants were the original bad hombres. Drugs, Crime, you name it; Chinese immigrants were accused of it all.

Then there was the 1902 Gentlemen’s Agreement that barred Japanese migrants from entering the United Stats. The final nudge that shut the door was the 1920s Quota Acts that all but halted Southern and Eastern European immigration.

America’s already locked immigration door was reinforced with more deadbolts during the Great Depression and WWII. In the 1930s, thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were rounded up, stuffed into boxcars or placed on ships and sent back to Mexico. Then there were the Japanese internment camps, followed by the outright refusal of entry to thousands upon thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing concentration camps.

As a nation these are episodes that we are collectively not proud of. They contradict our liberal democratic founding and they didn’t make much economic sense.

President Trump’s revised travel ban excludes immigrants from six countries and rejects refugees (with very slim exceptions). These exclusions are temporary, but here goes the first nudge.

The most significant piece of this policy is the overhaul to the visa and refugee granting system. To be more specific, this overhaul will aim to put into place permanent restrictions — a pretty big push toward closing the immigration door.

There’s the Mexico and Latin America targeted measures. The idea here is to preserve American jobs and keep immigrants from taking them. One hundred years ago, these immigrant “job-takers” were Chinese or Japanese, today they’re Mexican or Latin American.

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