Recently, the Trump Administration proposed an immigration plan that would eliminate the legal immigration based on family reunification. In exchange, Mr. Trump promises to provide “path to citizenship” to 1.8 million DACA recipients he essentially made deportable overnight by rescinding the DACA. This proposal, if passed, would essentially cut the number of legal immigrants by half.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat’s leader in House, characterizes the President’s plan as “Making American White Again”, reflecting the fact that non-white immigrants are the main beneficiaries of immigration systems based on family re-unification. Her painting of the plan draws criticism from both sides of the aile in Congress. Joe Manchin, the democratic senator from West Virginia, for one called Mrs.Pelosi’s comment “crazy rhetoric”. A disagreement on immigration policy, Mr. Manchin argued, should not be turned into racial bickering.
Mr. Manchin seems to have a point. Or, really?
Mrs.Pelosi, an ethnic Italian American, who seems to enjoy all the “white privileges” nowadays, certainly is a student of history.
The first major US immigration reform, adopted at the dawn of 20 thcentury, was an act purely based on racism and prejudice. Under that law, over 70% immigration quota were preserved for three northern European nations: UK, Germany and Ireland that produced the kind of white immigrants perceived as most “desirable”to American. Sound familiar to the question Mr. Trump asked not a long ago? “Why don’t we have more immigrants from Norway！？” As a result, Italians, whose racial stereotype back then, along with other southern European immigrants, was having darker skinn color and possibly of biological inferiority, only received a yearly quota of 3,400, contrasting the 51,000 allowance for a “higher” white race, say, Irish.
In fact, it is quite fascinating to note that Irish in 1921 was even considered as “ideal” immigrants for American. Merely half a century ago, the ragged Irish immigrants, fleeing famine and political prosecution, swarmed into the new continent, the promising land. They were from “shithole” countries by the contemporaneous standard, allowing myself to steal a term from Mr. Trump’s non-so-rich vocabulary. People said the character of Irish immigrants is so degenerate that they can never become real American. Here was outcry: why do not we have more immigrants from Germany, a more prosperous people from a more prosperous country?
But do not even get me started with German.
Nobody is immune from bigotry, not even our founding father. This is how Ben Franklin portrayed German immigrants in 1700s:
“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”.
I could not tell the difference in “Complexion” between President Trump, whose ancestor was from Germany, and someone with Anglo or Norwegian inheritage. And to be fair, Ben Franklin made the disparaging remarks right after the enterprise for his Germany newspaper quickly went under. But still.
This is just the prejudice the European immigrants had to face when they first arrived in their adopted home. Don’t even get me started with the Chinese, who were banned from migrating to US for more than half a century, the Japanese Americans, who were thrown into concentration camp during WWII without due process, the Mexican immigrants, many of whom were native born American citizens, were massively deported to Mexico during the infamous Mexican Repatriation in 1920s…
The list goes on.
The more things changed, the more they remain the same, as the history and current immigration debate intertwine. However, we, everyone of us, as immigrants or surely descendants of immigrants, can make the difference by learning from our history, even an inconvenient one from time to time.