Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigration and nativism, in historical context

An 1893 editorial cartoon by Joseph Keppler from Puck magazine with the caption, "They would close to the new-comer the bridge that carried them and their fathers over."
An 1893 editorial cartoon by Joseph Keppler from Puck magazine with the caption, "They would close to the new-comer the bridge that carried them and their fathers over." Photo by beestar/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Author Peter Schrag has an interesting piece published today in the Immigration Policy Center's "Perspectives" series, narratives written by academics and researchers on the topic of immigration.

The essay is taken from Schrag's book, "Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America."It puts the current immigration debate into historical context, taking a look at anti-immigrant sentiment, rhetoric and politics from the time of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to the post-/911 era. From the article:

American nativism and our historic ambivalence about immigration—at times vigorously seeking newcomers from abroad, at other times shutting them out and/or deporting them—is deeply entangled both in economic cycles and in the uncertainties of our vision of ourselves as a nation. A self?proclaimed “city upon a hill,” a shining model to the world, requires a certain kind of people. But what kind? Do they have to be pure Anglo?Saxons, whatever that was, which is what many reformers at the turn of the last century believed, or could it include “inferior” Southern Italians, Greeks, Slavs, Jews, or Chinese of the 1800s, the “dirty Japs” of 1942, or the Central Americans of today? Can America take the poor, the “tempest?tost,” the “wretched refuse” “yearning to breathe free” and make them a vital part of that city? If we began in perfection, how could change ever be anything but for the worse?

It's a great read. The entire piece is available here.
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