President Trump “said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist. … I cannot believe … any president has ever spoken the words that I … heard our president speak yesterday.”
So wailed Sen. Dick Durbin after departing the White House.
And what caused the minority leader to almost faint dead away?
Trump called Haiti a “s—-hole country,” said Durbin, and then asked why we don’t have more immigrants from neat places “like Norway.”
With that, there erupted one of the great media firestorms of the Trump era. On Martin Luther King Day, it was still blazing.
Trump concedes he may have disparaged Haiti, which, at last check, was not listed among “Best Places to Live” in the Western Hemisphere. Yet Trump insists he did not demean the Haitian people.
Still, by contrasting Norway as a desirable source of immigrants, as opposed to Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, Trump tabled a question that is roiling the West, the answer to which will decide its fate.
Trump is saying with words, as he has with policies, that in taking in a million people a year, race, religion and national origin matter, if we are to preserve our national unity and national character.
Moreover, on deciding who comes, and who does not, Americans have the sovereign right to discriminate in favor of some continents, countries and cultures, and against others.
Moreover, in stating his own preferences, Trump is in a tradition as old as the Republic.
The original Colonies did not want Catholics here. Ben Franklin feared Pennsylvania was being overrun by stupid Germans:
“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.”
Just as anti-immigrant parties have arisen in Europe to stem the flood of refugees from the Mideast and Africa, an American Party (“Know-Nothings”) was formed to halt the surge of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine of 1845-1849.
Lincoln wanted slaves repatriated to Africa. In the 19th and 20th centuries, we had Chinese and Japanese exclusion acts.
“Californians have properly objected” to Japanese migrants, said V.P. nominee FDR “on the sound basic ground that … the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.”
After the Great Migration of Italians, Poles, Jews and East Europeans, from 1890 to 1920, the Immigration Act of 1925 established quotas based on the national origins of the American people in 1890, thus favoring Brits, Scots-Irish, Irish and Germans.
Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, a major figure in Dr. King’s March on Washington, said of the Harding-Coolidge restrictive quotas:
“We favor reducing immigration to nothing … shutting out the Germans … Italians … Hindus … Chinese and even the Negroes from the West Indies. The country is suffering from immigration indigestion.”
The Senate floor leader of the 1965 Immigration Act addressed what were then regarded as valid concerns about the future racial and ethnic composition of the country. Sen. Edward Kennedy pledged:
“Our cities win not be flooded with a million immigrants annually … the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset. … S. 500 will not inundate America with immigrants from … the most populated and economically deprived nations of Africa and Asia.”
What Kennedy assured America would not happen, did happen.
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