Playing the Trump Card: The Enduring Legacy of Racism in Immigration Law
46 Pages Posted: 1 May 2016
Date Written: 2016
As this Article goes to press in spring of 2016, Donald Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. He has built his campaign on promises to build a wall on the United States-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration; to deport all of the estimated twelve million Mexican immigrants who are not legally authorized to live in the United States; to prohibit Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.; and to exclude all Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country. While many complain that these views violate our history of welcoming immigrants and visitors of all races, creeds, and colors, a historical examination reveals that from its beginnings, racism and xenophobia have been a driving force behind immigration law in the United States.
To understand immigration law in the United States, one must thus examine the history of racial exclusion and inequality. From the formation of the Republic, our immigration laws have reflected racist policies toward various and changing racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups. Today, anti-immigrant hysteria is directed largely at immigrants from Mexico and, increasingly, at Muslims or those associated (correctly or not) with Islam, especially immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia. One question that emerges is whether Mexican immigrants will follow the same patterns of assimilation or integration as past groups of immigrants, or whether they will join Black Americans as long-standing second-class citizens.
Keywords: Immigration, Trump, Racism, Mexican Americans, Black Americans
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