Even as President Trump slams the door on refugees, there is reason for hopeRoundup
tags: refugees, Trump, borders
Julia G. Young is associate professor of history at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and author of "Mexican Exodus: Emigrants, Exiles, and Refugees of the Cristero War.
Today, the Vatican celebrates the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The day was instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X, and has been celebrated every year since then.
In the United States these days, it can feel like there is very little to celebrate for immigrants and those who support them. Yet the World Day of Migrants and Refugees reminds us that even in times of immigration restriction and nativism during our history, migrants, refugees and secular and religious aid organizations have continuously fought to create more progressive and humane policies.
We are in a particularly dark period. Three years into the Trump presidency, the administration’s attacks on our immigration system have accelerated in horrifying ways. This summer, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched raids across the country, terrifying immigrant workers and tearing apart families. As of early September, more than 50,000 immigrants are being held in detention centers across the country. The Trump administration is making it far more difficult for people to seek asylum and sending thousands of vulnerable migrants to await their hearings in dangerous cities in Mexico. Just this week, the government announced it plans to reduce the cap on refugees to the unprecedented low of 18,000.
Yet while all of these developments might seem terrifyingly new, they also have precedents in our country’s history.
During the 1920s, Congress passed laws that excluded millions of people from migrating to the United States, based solely on their national origin. Asian immigrants were excluded completely (most Chinese immigrants had in fact been banned since 1882), as were most eastern and southern Europeans, Africans and residents of the Middle East. In the 1930s, the United States launched campaigns of deportation in which hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were rounded up and sent across the border. The violence extended even to U.S. citizens perceived to be “foreign”: During World War II, the United States rounded up 120,000 Japanese Americans and put them in internment camps across the country. In the same period, the government denied asylum to European war refugees, even sending a shipload of Jewish refugees back to danger and death in Europe.
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