December 8, 2015

Muslims are to Trump as the Chinese were to President Arthur in 1882

A political cartoon from 1882, showing a Chinese man being barred entry to the "Golden Gate of Liberty". The caption reads, "We must draw the line somewhere, you know."  Courtesy of Wikipedia

Yanan Wang in the Washington Post draws parallels between Donald Trump's call for the prohibition of Muslims from entering the United States and the sordid history of Chinese exclusion.  I was jarred (pleasantly) by her reference in the conclusion to one of my law review articles from 1998:

Trump's call for a "total and complete" ban on Muslims entering the U.S. has received widespread criticism in part because it evokes a history widely considered shameful now, not just in its application to the Chinese but to a succession of ethnic and religious groups lumped together for exclusion at one point or the other: Irish Catholics, Jews, South Asians, Turks and Pacific Islanders, among others.  Enacting such a proposal would mean going back 72 years in U.S. history, to before the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943.

In his paper "Race, the Immigration Laws, and Domestic Race Relations: A 'Magic Mirror' into the Heart of Darkness," University of California Davis law school dean Kevin Johnson contended that exclusionary immigration laws are in part reflections of prevailing opinions about racial minorities already settled in the U.S.

"For better or worse," Johnson wrote, "the history of national origin and racial exclusion in U.S. immigration laws serves as a lens into this nation's soul...This phenomenon is not limited to racial minorities, but applies with equal force to other groups who have been excluded from our shores under the immigration laws."