The Slatest

Jeff Sessions Once Said Restrictions on Jewish and Italian Immigration Were “Good for America”

Jeff Sessions at the White House on Aug. 21.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration will terminate the DACA program and resume the deportation of undocumented individuals with clean records who have lived in the United States since they were children. Both Sessions’ remarks and a statement issued by the White House attempted to frame the decision as one motivated by constitutional principles rather than racial/ethnic animosity. Sessions:

… The nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all can not be accepted.

This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.

This argument is belied by Trump and Sessions’ history of involvement with the white nationalist/supremacist alt-right movement and their history of remarks like the one Sessions made in 2015 during a radio interview with Steve Bannon. As flagged by Right Wing Watch and transcribed in the Atlantic:

In seven years we’ll have the highest percentage of Americans, non-native born, since the founding of the Republic. Some people think we’ve always had these numbers, and it’s not so, it’s very unusual, it’s a radical change. When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly, we then assimilated through the 1965 [Immigration Act] and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America. We passed a law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we’re on a path to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.

This is nuts even by Trump administration standards; the Immigration Act of 1924 is one of the most infamously racist laws in American history, having been passed by advocates of Nazi-style eugenics in order to cut down on the number of Jews, Italians, and other allegedly inferior groups who were allowed into the United States. Here’s an excerpt from a paper by a Georgia State historian named Paul Lombardo about a Congress-appointed eugenecist named Harry Laughlin who helped create the law:

Using data for the U.S. Census Bureau and a survey of the number of foreign-born persons in jails, prisons and reformatories, he argued that the “American” gene pool was being polluted by a rising tide of intellectually and morally defective immigrants – primarily from eastern and southern Europe … His research culminated in his 1924 testimony to Congress in support of a eugenically-crafted immigration restriction bill. The Eugenics Research Association displayed a chart beneath the Rotunda of the Capitol building in Washington showing the cost to taxpayers of supporting Laughlin’s “social inadequates.”

The resulting law, the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, was designed consciously to halt the immigration of supposedly “dysgenic” Italians and eastern European Jews.

“Good for America!” What a world.