Donald Trump has shaken the news media with his suggestion that we should bar Muslims from coming to the United States. My focus group of experts noted that we should not be surprised by Trump’s suggestion. It has its roots in many previous American policies.
Here is a short history. This does not include the routine discrimination against every new wave of immigrants to this country.
1882 — The Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned the immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years and denied citizenship to current Chinese residents in the U.S., was signed by U.S. President Chester Arthur. It would not be repealed until passing of the Magnuson Act on Dec. 17, 1943.
1936 — Rejection of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. In July 1938, a poll conducted by Fortune magazine found that fewer than 5 percent of Americans supported raising the quotas for political refugees, mostly Jews. 67 percent said, “we should try to keep them out.
1942 — Japanese internment. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, ordering the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
1954 — Deportation of Mexicans by President Dwight D. Eisenhower through “Operation Wetback.”
2015 — On Dec. 7, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump suggests that no Muslims should be allowed into the United States.
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I also will remind readers that Iowans rejected the building of Muslim Youth Camps of America in the Cedar Rapids area several years ago. As I remember the discussion was that Iowans did not want young Islamic men at a youth camp for fear of what would be going on at that facility. The Gazette headline read, “Backers end plans for long-delayed Muslim youth camp at Coralville Lake.” While environmental concerns were cited as the main issue, The Gazette also reported, “After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, religion and race also became an issue for a few people, and the controversy surrounding the project attracted national media attention.”
This is all the more surprising because the first Mosque in the United States, completed in 1934, is Cedar Rapids’ Mother Mosque of America. It was restored in 1990 after years of disrepair following the construction in 1971 of the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids. The Islamic community has been long established and an integral part of Cedar Rapids and includes doctors, business people, teachers and other prominent citizens of the city.
In times of panic and crisis, and we seem to be in such a moment now, people become fearful of foreigners even if that fear is irrational, impractical, and even if some of the suggested policies are actually Constitutionally illegal.
We also should recognize that anti immigration and largely anti-Islamic politicians have been gaining ground in Europe recently, especially in France where Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party may win the next election. The right is growing in other European countries, especially those with large Muslim populations.
It also has been announced that France, the cradle of democracy, has closed three mosques for, as USA Today reported, “an alleged ‘pattern of radicalization.’”
The point is, this discussion is heated, controversial and emblematic of the political climate in the United States and the world.
• Steffen Schmidt is Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and CEO of SEAS LLC consulting. Comments: email@example.com