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Current Immigration Proposals Resemble Nativist Laws Aimed at Irish

While the United States has a proud history as a country of immigrants, it has an almost equally long history as a nation that has tried to bar certain ethnic groups and economic classes from arriving on its shores, a recent book argues.

In the mid-19th century, states led by New York and Massachusetts — using language that strongly resembles anti-immigration policies put forth by the Trump administration — sought to limit immigration from Ireland, Hidetaka Hirota, a visiting professor of history at the City College of New York, writes in Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy.

“Just like the present administration is using the concept of national security against immigrants of allegedly undesirable character, in the 19th century, nativists were using the same concept against Catholic Irish immigrants, especially those who were really poor,” Hirota recently told CUNY Book Beat.

Hirota started working on the book long before Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy with a promise to deport undocumented immigrants from Mexico, which he followed with a call for a ban on Muslim immigrants.

Trump’s policies also have a link to more recent history, Hirota told Book Beat. “Trump is adopting a strategy similar to the one used by Richard Nixon in the 1970s by appealing to what’s called the silent majority: white Americans who think they’re overshadowed in American society and people who resented liberal policies in the past,” he said.

Beyond SUM

Book Cover: 'Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy' by Hidetaka Hirota
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Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy
Oxford University Press, 2017

Work By
Hidetaka Hirota (Visiting Professor, History) | Profile

Colleges and Schools
The City College of New York

Bonus Content
Barring the Gates (CUNY BookBeat Podcast)

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