It has now been more than 20 years since a Republican-controlled Congress, responding to a white supremacist "backlash" against the increase in legal immigration from outside Europe which had taken place during the previous three decades, ever since the landmark 1965 civil rights era immigration reform law, passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) in the dead of night without discussion or debate,in late September 1996. This law, which was attached as a rider to a "must pass" government appropriations bill, was then signed by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who did not have the courage to use his veto, when he was coming up for re-election only a little over a month later.

As every immigration practitioner knows, IIRIRA was loaded with provisions containing draconian penalties against unauthorized immigration (such as the 3-10 year "unlawful presence" bar), to mention just one), and numerous new restrictions against legal immigration. It was no secret that the purpose of this new law was to cut down on nonwhite immigration and take America back toward the pre-1965 system, originally enacted in 1924, which favored immigration from Europe (especially the "Nordic" countries of Europe - Jews, Italians and Eastern European immigrants were definitely not welcome).

The 1996 law which President Bill Clinton was too timid to veto, was passed in reaction to a deluge of anti-immigrant propaganda based on openly racial arguments, such as Peter Brimelow's popular book "Alien Nation" and the writings of columnist and later third party presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan.

Donald Trump was not part of this anti-immigrant movement. In fact, in 1998, he wrote an oped in the LA Times denouncing Buchanan's appeal to anti-immigrant racism and warning of its danger for democracy. But in retrospect, the Republican party's embrace of anti-immigrant white supremacy in the 1990's set the stage for the Donald Trump era today.

Columnist Heather Digby Parton, writing in salon ,com on April 12, makes clear that Donald Trump's
and his top "architect" Stephen Miller's racist agenda of persecution against non-European unauthorized immigrants. and restriction again non-European legal immigrants. did not suddenly fall out of the sky. It was the outcome of 20 years (or more) of Republican pandering to resistance to demographic change, especially among less educated white voters.

See, Heather Digby Parton:

Unite the whites: Donald Trump now leads a unifies party of anti-immigrant racism

Parton writes, specifically with regard to Trump's actions against asylum seekers: at the US-Mexico border:

This dovetails with Trump's desire to keep this issue front and center as he shifts into full-time campaigning mode for the 2020 election. To that end he has put White House adviser Stephen Miller, and anti-immigrant extremist, in charge of immigration policy."

To be continued in Part 2 of this two-part series.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law