In my March 21 comment, I discussed an article by David Frum, a speech writer for former president G.W. Bush, setting forth a number of ostensibly "polite" or "reasoned" arguments against immigration, as opposed to the ranting about "CRIME!!!" and "BORDER SECURITY!!!" by Donald Trump and his white nationalist base supporters.

But as showed in my comment, if one reads far enough into Frum's article, it also becomes apparent that all the supposedly "reasonable" arguments against immigration, based on "educational levels", "shared values" "respect for "democracy", "protecting American workers jobs", "assimilation" - one can go on and on - are just covers for prejudice by many white voters against immigrants who look different from themselves.

This kind of bigotry and xenophobia and is not new in America. The only difference is that it used to be directed mainly against European legal immigrants, rather than legal immigrants from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East today. Consider the following statement:

"The new immigration as a class is far less intelligent than the old...Generally speaking they are actuated in coming by different ideals, for the old immigration came to be a part of the country, while the new, in a larger measure, comes with the intention of profiting, in a pecuniary way, by the superior advantages of the new world and then returning to the old country."

Yes, the vocabulary has changed since the above statement appeared in 1911.

Instead of using the stilted language of a previous era, immigration opponents now obsess over more catchy slogans such as "birth tourism" or "child marriage" (long permitted by the laws of every state in the US and still supported by fundamentalist Christian groups) to show that legal immigrants allegedly do not care about our country or support our values.

But little has really changed - except that in those days, the perceived dangers to American values, civilization and way of life came from Southern and Eastern European immigrants. As LA Times commentator Gustavo Arellano writes in an August 8, 2018 opinion piece:

"Yes, over 100 years ago, America freaked out about legal Southern and Eastern European immigrants supposedly storming our shores, much like Donald Trump rails against refugees from 'shithole' countries today. The above blurb came from the 1911 Dillingham Commission, a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen and senators, that issued a 42-volume study concluding that Jews, Italians, Poles, Greeks and especially Hungarians represented a threat to our democracy."

Arellano continues:

"Throughout the entirety of American history, the majority of anti-immigrant actions and sentiments have been directed against legal immigrants. The Irish and Jews and Italians ans Chinese who bore the brunt of xenophobia in the 19th century almost all came through legal means - but it wasn't good enough, because they weren't considered 'white' at the time.

And nearly all the big anti-immigrant efforts put forth by the federal government before World War II - the Naturalization Act of 1790, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1924 Immigration Act - were enacted under the premise that the latest batch of legal immigrants weren't up to snuff compared to previous generations and thus deserved to be curtailed or outright banned..."


Trump's new plan targeting legal immigrants is proof that the immigration debate is about race, not law

Trump's assault on the basic human rights of non-white immigrants - demonizing them- calling them "criminals", "terrorists". "invaders" and "animals", denying them due process and detaining them in inhuman conditions which have been criticized as amounting to torture - is not limited to immigrants who come to or remain in the US without permission.

It also involves a concerted attack against our entire legal immigration system - refugee admissions, asylum, family immigration, the Diversity visa, H-1B TPS, DACA - any laws, regulations or policies that would admit legal immigrants or grant quasi-legal status to any immigrants, as well as the Muslim Ban which is obviously based on religion.

100 years and more ago, the main objects of attempts to roll back or ban legal immigration by people who did not fit in with the prejudices of the white majority because of their race, nationality or religion were legal immigrants from Europe.

Today, they are legal immigrants from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. What else has changed?

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law