At Monday nightís CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential candidatesí debate, Michelle Bachmann said that pre-1965 US immigration laws including the National Origins Act and the Asian Exclusion Act “worked very, very well.” It was only “when liberal members of Congress changed the immigration laws” in the 1960s that, says Bachmann, problems arose.
What works “very, very well,” according to Bachmann, are quotas on the number of immigrants that give European immigrants preferential treatment and policies that exclude immigrants on the basis of their race.
The first major law that restricted immigration to the US was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted Chinese immigration for ten years and prohibited the Chinese from becoming citizens. The law was extended for another ten years under the Geary Act and became permanent in 1902. It was a precursor to†immigration-restriction acts in the 1920s that led up to 1929′s National Origins Act, which put a cap on overall immigration to the United States at 150,000 per year. The number of immigrants to be admitted from any country was based on the number of people from that country who were already living in the US in 1890. As Think Progress points out, because “Americans were overwhelmingly of European descent in 1890, the practical effect of these laws was an enormous thumb on the scale encouraging white immigration.”
Furthermore, Japanese and Chinese immigrants were in effect barred from entering the US, as the law stated that no alien who was ineligible to become a citizen could be admitted to the United States as an immigrant. Under†the†Naturalization Act of 1790, non-whites were not eligible for naturalization and were therefore, in effect, not allowed to immigrate to the US.
In other words, they were not only barred — on the basis of their race –†from being naturalized as US citizens, but from immigrating to the US.
Those quotas were only eliminated under the†the†Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, a law which is “widely credited for opening up our nation to new Americans of Asian and Central and South American descent.” But according to Bachmann, the 1965 law is immigration policy that doesn’t “work” so well. As she said on Sunday,
What works is to have people come into the United States with a little bit of money in their pocket, legally, with sponsors so that if anything happens to them they donít fall back on the taxpayers to take care of them.
It’s not just any tired, poor, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” that we (according to Bachmann) wish to have emigrating to the US. Things just work “very, very well” when those “masses” are… monochromatic and not the “yellow peril.”
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Photo by Gage Skidmore