Tuesday, November 17, 2015

GOP Fear Mongerers and America's Poor Track Record on Immigrants

One other thing that John Kasich said in the context of whether or not Syrian refugees should be allowed into America was to the effect that "the American public usually gets it right."  Kasich made the statement to justify turning away Syrian refugees.  In point of fact, America has gotten it seriously wrong on immigration many times over the course of the nation's history - especially if the immigrants were of different faiths and darker skin color.  The image above shows how wrong public opinion was in the 1930's in the context of taking in Jewish refugees.  This piece looks at America's less than stellar track record.  Here are some excerpts:

It’s a comforting thought to look at the refugees fleeing ISIS — the same ones to whom Republicans want to deny entry into the United States — and say that we’re better than this, that Americans as a whole will rise up and refuse to be so cold, so heartless. But those of us who are eager to help people in need are truly in the minority, historically speaking.

As World War II approached, Fortune Magazine published the results of a 1938 poll that should serve as a grim reminder that Americans can and will latch on to bigotry in any sense. Today, we pretend that America has always accepted Jewish people. Unfortunately, the poll reveals that the majority — 67 percent — openly rejected taking in Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and other countries oppressed by the Nazis “with conditions as they are.” Only 23 percent of Americans, most of whom opposed raising immigration quotas, said that accepting Jewish refugees was a good idea.

2016 Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie’s opinion that we should not even accept Muslim “5-year-old orphans” is one that should stay buried in our shameful past — but a January 1939 poll heartbreakingly reveals that Americans even opposed taking care of Jewish children.

In September, the Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor reminded us that the bigotry espoused by the Right and the hatred they level at Muslim refugees is exactly like the anti-Semitism of the 1930’s:
No matter the alarming rhetoric of [Adolf] Hitler’s fascist state — and the growing acts of violence against Jews and others — popular sentiment in Western Europe and the United States was largely indifferent to the plight of German Jews.

“Of all the groups in the 20th century,” write the authors of the 1999 book, “Refugees in the Age of Genocide,” “refugees from Nazism are now widely and popularly perceived as ‘genuine’, but at the time German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews were treated with ambivalence and outright hostility as well as sympathy.”
“Part of that hostility was fueled, as some of the European grievances are now, by stereotypes of the refugees as harbingers of a dangerous ideology, in this instance communism and anarchist violence,” Tharoor notes.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Every day, Republicans remind us  — incorrectly — that Muslims are of the devil, that their ways and beliefs are somehow dangerous to the good, pristine America they know and love…and that has not existed since Jim Crow ended.

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