102 years ago today, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917. This law was the most sweeping immigration law to that date. In essence, the law barred most Asians and severely limited any immigrants who weren’t from northern or western Europe. The Nativist movement had hold of Congress who fought for this law. This loud group didn’t want anyone but Americans in America. When President Wilson disagreed, Congress overturned his veto and made it a law.
Today’s anniversary of this law sits heavy with me as I wonder why our immigration policies may be driven more by stereotyping and fear than need, data, and humanity.
Our nation is a plurality. How do we live with and accept each other’s differences? Simply put, you cannot force your belief on me and my belief cannot dictate yours. Some of us understand and celebrate our diversity as it complements our culture. Some of us may need to keep with what we know. There is no harm in living with what you know, it’s comforting. And we all need comfort.
However, each of us can define comfort our own selves.
For several years, the Immigration Act held its power. It took about 30 years for the law to weaken and Congress created less discriminatory immigration laws.
I find comfort that our democracy can reimagine itself over time. As discussions continue in Washington D.C., we must compel our leaders to create a new vision to drive immigration policy.
I’m Elsa Glover and that’s my perspective.