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.” (Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, vol. 54 (1882 April 1), p. 96 | Public domain, Library of Congress)
The ISIS-led attack on Paris has resulted in a global-wide onslaught of different reactions and buzz about solutions to prevent another terrorist attack. However, not all of them could be classified as rational or fair.
Here in the United States for instance, people have seized upon the opportunity to speak and act negatively against the Syrian refugees and Muslims in general. In the political realm especially where, surprisingly, there’s bilateral agreement between political parties.
And it isn’t good. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have voted to pass the SAFE Act, a bill that experts say will make the already hugely restrictive and bureaucratic process of being vetted even more bloated, unbalanced and unfair.
As students, one thing we are required to study to attain a degree is history. Even if its not relevant to our majors, it’s an understanding
In fact a quick glance back at history shows that the U.S. is no stranger to being very discriminatory towards immigrants.
A notable example was in 1882 when the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act due to the general fear of huge numbers of people from East Asia coming to totally wipe out America. The primary reason was immigration due to the coercive imperalism of foreign powers such as Europe and America.
Worse still, the act was constantly adding to by both federal and local laws which eventually reached their zenith with the Immigration Act of 1924. Moving from beyond limiting just East Asians, the act greatly restricted all immigrants of non-U.S. countries. Only a maximum of just two percent of people from that country, who were already living in the U.S., could be admitted under the law.
This law resulted in the American government, during 1939, to refuse to accept 908 German refugees escaping Nazi persecution traveling aboard the MS St. Louis ship from being admitted into America. The two percent quota had been reached. The American government forced the ship to leave without allowing any refugees to disembark.
Passengers instead disembarked at Belgium, France, Antwerp and the Netherlands, all of were assaulted by Germany. 227 of them are estimated to have died due to the attacks.
It’s 2015 and like in 1882, the wave of Syrian immigrants can be owed primarily to the blowback of consistent and needless foreign intrusion into the Middle East by many foreign societies such as America.
This has taken the form of factors like ISIS who continue to drive immigrants from their country in great droves to seek solace in others. Like in times before, people seek to keep them out, rather than seeking rational solutions to ensure the right people get in.
Putting a lock on the door or making that door near impossible to open for immigrants, especially those fleeing Syria, is not reasonable. We need rational, sane and grounded solutions to make sure we ensure fairness. It’s impossible to achieve those if fear, ignorance, xenophobia and most of all, a refusal to learn from past mistakes possess our minds.
(Photo credit: Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, vol. 54 (1882 April 1), p. 96. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)