The New York Times is admitting the United States had a racialized immigration policy throughout virtually its entire history until the Civil Rights Movement:
“The truth is, many of the United States’ early policies toward immigrants were conceived in recognizably Trumpian terms, in substance if not in tenor. The president’s headline-making sentiment that people from countries like Norway (read: white people) were preferable would have been recognizable to the founders.
The nation’s first naturalization law, from 1790, closed off United States citizenship to all but “free white persons of good character.” People of African descent were among the first migrants singled out for surveillance and exclusion, as they sought entry to the country or moved between states. State repression of black migrants transformed them into America’s first “illegal immigrants,” laying the groundwork for durable associations between law, morality and the need to keep people of color, quite literally, in their “place.”
The racialization of United States immigration law took off in the decades following the Civil War. Beginning with the Chinese, migrants from Asia were the early targets; beginning in 1917, an “Asiatic Barred Zone” (with latitude and longitude markers laid out clearly in the legislative code) kept out migrants from an imaginary mega-region that stretched from contemporary Turkey to Papua New Guinea.
In the aftermath of World War I, a new “national origins” quota system sought to turn back the American demographic clock, with European immigrants admitted in proportion to the presence of their “nationality” in the American population based on earlier censuses. It was “Make America Great Again” for a eugenic age. Hitler was a fan. America appeared to be “a young, racially select people,” he wrote admiringly in 1928, by “making an immigrant’s ability to set foot on American soil dependent on specific racial requirements,” among other factors.
The United States’ unapologetically racist immigration codes — with Asian exclusion and “national origins” at their core — survived the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginnings of the Cold War and decolonization; the presumption that the United States was or should be a white fortress in a mostly colored world was backstopped by science, religion, scholarship and popular culture. American law did not allow Asians to obtain citizenship until 1952.
Under the pressure of anti-racist and immigrant rights pressure, the system fell in 1965 with the passage of the Hart-Celler Act, which foregrounded family reunification, refugee admissions and the entry of the highly skilled and educated. But racism persisted in both policy enforcement and popular attitudes. …”
Glad that we agree.
Yeah, that’s pretty much all true. That’s the way it was until the New York Intellectuals redefined Americanism as cosmopolitanism in the 1930s and the ADL got President John F. Kennedy to endorse the notion that America is a “Nation of Immigrants.” America’s naturalization laws were based on whiteness until the McCarran–Walter Act of 1952.