That’s quite the dog whistle

Donald Trump is getting more subtle in his racism. He said this recently:

We’ve admitted 59 million immigrants to the United States between 1965 and 2015. Many of these arrivals have greatly enriched our country. So true. But we now have an obligation to them and to their children to control future immigration as we are following, if you think, previous immigration waves…
To keep immigration levels measured by population share within historical norms. To select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society and their ability to be financially self-sufficient.

As Eric Schmeltzer points out, “1965” is a dogwhistle to the racists. That’s the year, to their horror, that a law established during the height of the eugenics fervor, prior to WWII, was gutted by congress.

In 1965, we passed the Immigration and Nationality Act. That law essentially repealed the crux of a 1920s law called the Emergency Quota Act.

The Emergency Quota Act (and a 1924 bill that slightly amended it) set quotas on immigration that were based on the number of people of a nationality currently in a country. The effect and intent of the law was abundantly clear. America was mostly white and European, and the law was going to keep it that way, by putting low and hard caps on “others,” while opening the doors to more white Europeans.

I cannot emphasize enough how vile the 1924 act was — it was patently, unashamedly, blatantly racist. Rather than admitting new immigrants on the basis of need or ability, it made the primary criterion for limiting immigration the color of their skin and ethnicity of origin. It enshrined the bigotry of a small group of influential, educated white men, in particular a few Harvard-educated Anglo-Saxon elites, into the law of the land. As Gould summarized it in The Mismeasure of Man:

Congressional debates leading to passage of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 frequently invoked the army data [misleading data from IQ tests]. Eugenicists lobbied not only for limits to immigration, but for changing its character by imposing harsh quotas against nations of inferior stock—a feature of the 1924 act that might never have been implemented, or even considered, without the army data and eugenicist propaganda. In short, southern and eastern Europeans, the Alpine and Mediterranean nations with minimal scores on the army tests, should be kept out. The eugenicists battled and won one of the greatest victories of scientific racism in American history. The first restriction act of 1921 had set yearly quotas at 3 percent of immigrants from any nation then resident in America. The 1924 act, following a barrage of eugenicist propaganda, reset the quotas at 2 percent of people from each nation recorded in the 1890 census. The 1890 figures were used until 1930. Why 1890 and not 1920 since the act was passed in 1924? 1890 marked a watershed in the history of immigration. Southern and eastern Europeans arrived in relatively small numbers before then, but began to predominate thereafter. Cynical, but effective. “America must be kept American,” proclaimed Calvin Coolidge as he signed the bill.

They were cunning. Rather than openly and explicitly shutting down the immigration of swarthy Italians and Greeks and Lebanese, or worst of all, the dusky inhabitants of the Dark Continent by name, which would have been a little too on-the-nose, they used a call to “historical norms” and declared the noble cause of American purity, which everyone knew meant keeping America white. Those brown people, obviously, are not truly American.

That’s what Donald Trump is signing on to now. He is tapping directly into nativist bigotry in a way that’s not obvious to people outside racist circles. These ideas have consequences — dreadful, fatal, corrupting consequences — and we’ve got a media that’s oblivious to what is going on, and a significant sub-population that does understand what he’s saying, and is cheering it on. Take it away again, Steve Gould:

The quotas stood, and slowed immigration from southern and eastern Europe to a trickle. Throughout the 1930s, Jewish refugees, anticipating the holocaust, sought to emigrate, but were not admitted. The legal quotas, and continuing eugenical propaganda, barred them even in years when inflated quotas for western and northern European nations were not filled. Chase (1977) has estimated that the quotas barred up to 6 million southern, central, and eastern Europeans between 1924 and the outbreak of World War II (assuming that immigration had continued at its pre-1924 rate). We know what happened to many who wished to leave but had nowhere to go. The paths to destruction are often indirect, but ideas can be agents as sure as guns and bombs.

The Golden Door is being slammed shut, and the lamp is going dark.


  1. methuseus says

    I like to think I had a pretty good education in school pertaining to the history of the US, both bad and good. I also learned more myself. I don’t understand why it is only in the past few years that I have found out so many horrible things like this that were perpetrated in this country. Oh well, I’m sure other countries have their own things, too. It just means Americans aren’t really that exceptional, except that they’re pretty exceptionally awful at times.

  2. blgmnts says

    @1 williamgeorge

    Some months ago I mentioned the NSDAP “toning it down” and change their appearance to appeal to the orderly law-and-order conservatives of the time which led to their March 1933 success. I speculated that a similar strategy might be used by Trump. We might be seeing that now.

  3. blf says

    As a reminder, teh trum-prat’s speechrant last Wednesday in Arizona — the one the New York Times openly called a “hate speech” — would not be out-of-place in mein kampf.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Trump’sDrumph’s “speeches” are just brain farts as it struggles with that orange possum smothering it.
    waiting for news of his appeal to POC at an actual POC church. All I’ve heard is a mere handful of POC in the Church to listen to his farts while many more were outside protesting.
    to derail OT:
    speaking of protests, Brock who raped and was such a good swimmer was given a slap on the wrist, was released on parole recently (after a whole 3 months of incarceration), and many are picketing his home to protest such a lite sentence for such an act. Many protesters are “protecting themselves” with open carry (since Ohio, natch). Let’s hope they don’t “stand their ground”.

  5. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Of course, such ‘subtlety’ may not be Trumps idea but that of the new puppetmaster

  6. blf says

    We’ve admitted 59 million immigrants to the United States between 1965 and 2015.

    Needless to say — this is the always-lying trum-prat — dubious. (And, even if vaguely true-ish, so what?) From Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge: “Since then [‘civil rights movement of the 1960s’], the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled, from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007.”

  7. wzrd1 says

    @methuseus, during the Bosnia mess, some Serbs objected to the constant media clamor over ethnic cleansing and how hypocritical it was of us, considering how we treated the Native Americans and African slaves. “Who made you such authorities?!”

    I replied, with a grave expression, “We’ve proved ourselves subject matter experts in attempted genocide, so we most certainly can identify it and we’d rather others not repeat our mistakes”.
    It’s difficult to challenge that honest answer.

  8. Rich Woods says

    @blf #5:

    As a reminder, teh trum-prat’s speechrant last Wednesday in Arizona — the one the New York Times openly called a “hate speech” — would not be out-of-place in mein kampf.

    And just as badly written.

  9. kodiak says

    without futher comment, a poem

    The Lady Speaks Again

    “I lift my lamp beside the golden door”
    More golden now than ever; don’t ask why.
    Just list your assets, where you can get more,
    and who you know. No others need apply.

    – Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

  10. numerobis says

    blf@8: if 38 million US residents are first-generation immigrants, seems like the total number of people who showed up would be higher than a mere 59 million over 50 years.

    People emigrate, and people die.

  11. anbheal says

    Oh man, this line of reasoning really chaps my ass. There’s a regular conservative troll over on the public policy site SameFacts who constantly whines: “I’m not anti-immigrant, but we just need to choose more carefully — we should have accepted far more from Hong Kong when the Brits gave it back to China, they could be developing all sorts of computer programs now!” Because that’s what Asian brains do, you see. Meanwhile, as wzrd1 notes, the Chinese were anathema during The Yellow Peril.

    And then there are the more recent numbers. Excuse me folks, I’m doing this from rough memory. But of 11 million or so undocumented workers a year or two back, the numbers went something like: 2.5 million Chinese, another 1.5 million SE Asians, 1.5 million Eastern Europeans, 1 million Middle East, 1 million Indian, and a half million of those most hideous of all, the folks who smuggled the 9-11 jihadists in…..CANADIANS!!! So that leaves about 3 million Latinos. The majority of whom are not Mexican, since the Mexican economy is doing pretty well. But if you get pegged by the CBP or INS, would you say “Hi, I’m Nicaraguan”, or “Hi, I’m Honduran”, and get deported 1200, 1400 miles, or say “Hi, I’m Mexican”, and get deported 20 yards? The net migration with Mexico has been TOWARD Mexico for the last eight years, and the majority of Latinos arriving here in search of shitty work have been from the countries where we instituted political violence against Leftist peasants.

    And guess what, Mexico is now the 10th biggest economy in the world because of its doctors and lawyers and computer programmers….it has a fucking space agency… leads the world in several manufacturing sectors….

    And guess what….Lithuanian and Ukrainian C++ programmers who come over here depress salaries for American programmers, and Irish college kids depress wages for bartenders, and Slovakian waitresses living in barns full of other Slovakian waitresses ruin the market for summer jobs on Nantucket for rich white kids, and Chinese slave ships filled with the women who do your manicures and pedicures depress the wages of Italian and Irish girls just foaming at the mouth to clean your feet….

    ….but somehow it’s only Mexicans who bother the Rabid Right. Detect a pattern here? Why there aren’t walls on the west and east coasts being proposed? Maybe it has something to do with…..drumroll please…..PRESERVING SLAVE LABOR AT FIVE DOLLARS A DAY????

    They’re more valuable to us on the other side of the Rio Bravo, that’s what’s driving the Koch Brothers. $5 per day rather than $40 per day. They just sell the racism to low-information voters who would have been just as happy to cast their cold eye on the Chinese or Irish or Poles, had that been Fox News’s punching-bag-du-jour.

  12. ck, the Irate Lump says

    anbheal wrote:

    a half million of those most hideous of all, the folks who smuggled the 9-11 jihadists in…..CANADIANS!!!

    The 9/11 hijackers did not enter the U.S. via Canada. That was merely a lie used by Republicans and the Bush administration to shut down the rather open border we had going and put new restrictions on traffic across it. It was just one of many ways they destroyed (and continue to destroy) international relationships, because that link was from last year.

    If you’re going to Blame Canada, at least blame us for something we actually did, like Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, or Poutine.