February 5, 1917- The Immigration Act Of 1917 is Signed into Law
Less than a month ago, the president read aloud from a document prepared by his domestic policy adviser and noted White Nationalist, Stephen Miller. Miller, a walking endorsement in favor of birth control, had handed the paper to POTUS just moments before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the USA in 2017.
2,500 were from Afghanistan, “a terrorist haven”, POTUS grumbled.
Haiti, a country devastated by an earthquake in 2010, had sent 15,000 people. The president complained “they all have AIDS” and:
“Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
40,000 had come from Nigeria. POTUS griped that once they had seen the USA: “… they would never go back to their huts in Africa“.
POTUS was enraged when lawmakers discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal:
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
The president then suggested that the USA should bring more people from countries such as Norway.
Just five years ago, 68 out of the 100 senators voted for an immigration bill that would have expanded immigration by 10.4 million people over a decade. That would have represented roughly a doubling of immigration.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, then on the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered an amendment to cap immigration at 33 million over the decade. No other senator voted for it. No one really noticed Sessions’ stand in 2013, and discussion of the bill focused on its amnesty for illegal immigrants and ignored legal immigration.
Five years ago, there was a bipartisan consensus for much higher legal immigration. Today reducing all immigration is the thing. POTUS and Miller are moving the debate over immigration in a sharply restrictionist nationalism direction.
101 years ago, on this day, February 5,1917, in a fit of unbridled White Nationalism, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917 by an overwhelming majority, overriding President Woodrow Wilson’s earlier veto. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 already banned Chinese from entering the USA. The new law added to the ban: “Alcoholics”, “Anarchists”, “Contract Laborers”, “Criminals and Convicts”, “Epileptics”, “Feebleminded Persons”, “Idiots”, “Illiterates”, “Imbeciles”, “Insane Persons”, “Paupers”, “Persons Afflicted With Contagious Disease”, “The Mentally Or Physically Defective”, “Persons With Constitutional Psychopathic Inferiority”, “Political Radicals”, “Polygamists”, “Prostitutes” and “Vagrants”.
Besides the Chinese, also banned were immigrants from: Afghanistan, The Arabian Peninsula, Asiatic-Russia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Polynesian Islands. Interestingly, Japanese and Koreans were not included in the ban.
To keep these people out, the law raised the tax imposed on adult entrants, and imposed a literacy test.
The ban made an exception for contracted temporary labor, enabling the recruitment of Mexican agricultural and railroad workers. It included a ban on admitted homosexual immigrants. Legislation banning LGBTQ people remained part of our immigration policy until passage of the Immigration Act Of 1990.
At the time, President Wilson said:
“… it will all but close entirely the gates of asylum which have always been open to those who could find nowhere else the right and opportunity of constitutional agitation for what they conceived to be the natural and inalienable rights of men.”
“Restrictions like these, adopted earlier in our history as a Nation, would very materially have altered the course and cooled the humane ardors of our politics.”
“The right of political asylum has brought to this country many a man of noble character and elevated purpose who was marked as an outlaw in his own less fortunate land, and who has yet become an ornament to our citizenship and to our public councils.”