Sunday, December 02, 2007

Immigration sentiments, 1939

My daughter Hannah, who used to blog with me here, is now generally an absent partner because she blogs as part of her job at "Jews for Social Justice." Her latest post is The Immigration Debate in 1939 in which she offer the following passage.

I'm copying it here because (warning) the type on is very tiny. I guess that's because young people like Hannah and her bosses still have excellent eyes.

Extracts from
"The Social and Economic Consequences of Exclusionary Immigration Laws"
Felix S. Cohen, the National Lawyers Guild Quarterly

October, 1939

Civilization is a living thing, born like other living things through a crossing of strains. At each period in the world’s history, the crown of civilization has been held by that nation which represented the greatest tolerance of prior cultures.

Hatred of the alien is always the mark of a declining civilization, that has lost its capacity to grow …

In every generation the prophets of disaster have proclaimed that immigrants with foreign ways would destroy our American way of life. But today we enjoy citizenship in the most powerful and most prosperous nation of the world because these prophets of disaster, in 1797 and since, did not succeed in building a Chinese Wall around our country to exclude “foreign devils” and strange ideas.

We have grown greater and more prosperous as a people by reason of each wave of immigration of the past, and those who now seek our shores carry gifts as great as any that earlier pilgrims brought.

If we are true to the American spirit of tolerance, we shall profit from those gifts, from the new industries, new consumer demands, new inventions, new contributions to the amenities of life that these modern pilgrims bear.

If America is destined in the decades or centuries ahead to create a culture and a civilization greater than any the earth has yet seen, it will be because each of the races of the earth is free here in America, as nowhere else, to make its highest contribution to the New World of the Future.

Hannah's article points us to ImmigrationProf and here's part of what KJ wrote:
By the way, of the 11 bills [mentioned as pending in the 1939 article] the most succinct was one introduced by a Congressman from Georgia, which reads in its entirety as follows:

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that after December 31, 1939, no immigrant (as defined in section 203, title 8, United States Code) shall be admitted to the United States. Sec. 2. That after December 31, 1939, every alien in the United States (as defined in section 173, title 8, United States Code) shall be forthwith deported."

Makes one either laugh or cry.

Here's one quote in his discussion of the history of immigration law, after describing the 1882 Chinese exclusion laws:

The 'Whereas' clause of this Act is strangely reminiscent of explanations of aggression and racial persecution offered by certain European nations in recent years: 'Whereas, in the opinion of the Government of the United States, the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof . . .'

Apparently Congress, in its anxiety to do away with the riots and lynchings which were directed against Chinese in certain localities, decided that the proximate cause of the disorders was the existence of the Chinese victims.

By preventing them from entering the country, Congress made sure that they would not be molested, and by denying those who had already entered the rights of citizenship, Congress made sure that their rights would not be violated.


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