US: A Nation of Immigrants, but Ambivalent About Immigration | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

US: A Nation of Immigrants, but Ambivalent About Immigration

In 1921 and 1924, in the aftermath of World War I and the Red Scares that followed the Russian Revolution, the first limits were set for immigration from countries that were seen as undesirable

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    President Donald Trump's claim that his recent executive action on immigration and refugees mirrors restrictions put in place under former President Barack Obama in 2011 is not accurate, says Eugene Kiely of Factcheck.org. NBC News reports. (Published Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017)

    America's self-image is forever intertwined with the melting pot. It's a nation that welcomes the world's wretched refuse, a nation built by immigrants, a nation whose very motto is "E Pluribus Unum" — Out of Many, One.

    America's history also is replete with efforts to shut the golden door to arrivals from China, from Eastern and Southern Europe — and most recently, from predominantly Muslim nations.

    Lawmakers 'Tricked' Into Honoring Ku Klux Klansman

    [NATL] Tennessee Lawmakers 'Tricked' Into Honoring Ku Klux Klansman

    Lawmakers in Tennessee are crying foul after Republican Rep. Mike Sparks sneaked in a resolution to honor former Ku Klux Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest with a bust under a different name. The resolution passed unanimously, 94-0, and the bust was installed at the state Capitol before lawmakers realized the mistake. 

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    America's relationship with immigration is ... complicated.

    "Many of us — politicians, people who are speaking out against the impact of the administration's actions — are saying, 'We are a nation of immigrants. This goes against our most important values.' And that is absolutely true," said Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. "But we also have a long record of barring immigrants, denigrating them, building walls. That's the flip side."

    Said Mae Ngai, a professor of history at Columbia University and author of "Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America": "We struggle over these things. Both strains have always been present."

    The leaders of colonial America knew they needed immigrants to populate their new land. But Benjamin Franklin grumbled about an influx of "swarthy" Germans, and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 made it harder to attain citizenship and easier to deport non-citizens deemed dangerous.

    UC Davis Now Sells Plan B and Condoms From a Vending Machine

    [NATL] UC Davis Now Sells Plan B, Pregnancy Tests and Condoms From a Vending Machine

    Students at the University of California, Davis, can now purchase $30 Plan B emergency contraceptives, pregnancy tests, condoms and other personal care products from a vending machine. The idea came from UC Davis senior Parteek Singh, after a friend was unable to buy emergency contraceptives in time. 

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    The acts were controversial; most were allowed to expire in a few years, but the deportation law remains, even today. And their justification — that some or many immigrants were dangerous interlopers — has been invoked again and again.

    The rise of the Know Nothings, a nativist and populist movement of the 1840s and '50s, was spurred by the rise in German and Irish immigration, and by fears that the Catholic newcomers were loyal to a foreign entity — the pope — and incompatible with American values.

    "If you substitute 'Muslim' for 'Catholic,' they would sound very similar to what you hear today," Lee said.

    In 1868, the U.S. signed a treaty encouraging Chinese migration; 24 years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act turned away immigrants from what was even then the world's most populous nation.

    Millennials Found Most Susceptible to Robocalls and Scams

    [NATL] Millennials Found Most Susceptible to Robocalls and Scams

    A new study finds that it is not the elderly who are most susceptible to scam phone calls, but millennials, who are six times more likely to give away credit card information than any other age group. 

    (Published Saturday, April 29, 2017)

    What had happened in between? The Chinese immigrants who had shouldered much of the work of building the West had come to be seen as a threat — the "Yellow Peril."

    Fear and bigotry were intermixed. In 1917, Congress passed legislation requiring a literacy test for immigrants, though only after four presidential vetoes. "They knew they couldn't say, 'Keep out the Jews and the Italians,'" but that was the purpose, Ngai said.

    In 1921 and 1924, in the aftermath of World War I and the Red Scares that followed the Russian Revolution, the first quotas took effect, setting limits for immigration from countries that were seen as undesirable. There was to be little immigration from Africa, none from Asia or Arab countries, and the flow from southern and eastern Europe was curtailed.

    Jewish refugees from Europe were blocked during and after World War II — first because of fears that they might be German sympathizers, then because of fears that they were Communists. "History doesn't look too kindly on this, because we know how preposterous this was," said Rebecca Kobrin, an assistant professor of history at Columbia.

    Girl Scalped on Carnival Ride Talks Recovery One Year Later

    [NATL] Girl Scalped on Carnival Ride Talks Recovery One Year Later

    Elizabeth "Lulu" Gilreath talks about her recovery from a carnival ride gone very wrong. Gilreath was scalped when her hair was caught on the King's Crown ride in Omaha, Nebraska, but she does not dwell on the incident, saying "My scars don't define me."

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    But for all Americans' suspicions of immigrants, said Maria Cristina Garcia, professor of American studies at Cornell University, there has been an appreciation of what they did.

    "Since the early republic, Americans have recognized that immigrants are essential to nation-building: Immigrants farmed the prairies, worked in the factories, built the streets, canals and railroad tracks. They mined the ore, planted and harvested the crops, and provided basic services. Government and business actively recruited foreign labor to facilitate economic growth," she said.

    As hard as it often was — and as much bigotry as immigrants endured — immigration became central to the American narrative.

    "It's fundamental," said William Thiesen, 37, a New Yorker visiting the city's Tenement Museum on Tuesday. "I think being an American is being an immigrant. It's the American fabric. We're all immigrants."

    Man Sees Vera Wang Diamond Ring on Sidewalk, Finds Its Owner

    [NATL] Man Finds Vera Wang Diamond Engagement Ring on Sidewalk, Tracks Down Its Owner

    Imagine looking down and finding a pristine diamond ring lying on the sidewalk. That was how Glenn Weddell found a Vera Wang diamond ring one afternoon in Sacramento, California. But instead of keeping it, Weddell hunted down the distraught owner to return the ring in a happy reunion. His method involved posting a sign to a tree downtown and hoping for the best. 

    (Published Thursday, April 27, 2017)

    It was Israel Zangwell, a British writer, who dubbed America "the Melting Pot" in his 1908 play of the same name. His Russian-Jewish immigrant hero proclaims: "what is the glory of Rome and Jerusalem where all nations and races come to worship and look back, compared with the glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward!"

    More than 100 years later, despite some apprehensions of the moment, that feeling persists.

    "America has been the dream for every educated young person," said Sontu Barua, a government employee in the sprawling Indian city of Lucknow. "It remains a land of opportunity."

    More than 700,000 citizenship applications were filed from October 2015 to June 2016, about 25 percent more than the year before. The U.S. issued more than 10 million visas in 2015.

    Inmate Convulses During Execution With Controversial Drug

    [NATL] Fourth Arkansas Inmate Convulses During Execution With Controversial Drug

    The controversy over midazolam, a drug used during state executions of convicted inmates, rises following the execution of a fourth Arkansas inmate in eight days. Witnesses say Kenneth Williams, put on death row for the 1999 murder of two people, moved and shook during his execution Thursday night.

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    But the United States is far less inviting than it once was: The number of immigrants obtaining legal permanent resident status in 2010 was just over a million — almost precisely the same number as it was a hundred years earlier, when the population was less than a third of what it is now.

    American ambivalence is reflected in the Statue of Liberty. Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus," with its siren call to "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore," is inscribed on a tablet in the statue's base. Lady Liberty herself, a gift from France to commemorate the American and French revolutions, is not placed to welcome immigrants.

    "She faces the city," said Columbia's Ngai. "She doesn't face the arrivals."