Getting Refugee Crises Wrong – An American Tradition

The Twitter account @HistOpinion (Curated by historian Peter Schulman), has been posting historical poll data about the refugee crisis of the 1930s. Some examples:

Here’s the source for that college student poll:

One could, of course, make the argument that people are SCARED of the Syrians, whereas they just hated the Jews. They didn’t see the Jews as threats.

As I said after 9/11, as violence against brown people with head coverings (Muslims, Sikhs, etc.) raged – America always gets these moments wrong. We had plenty of anti-German panic during the World Wars too. Before that, it was Catholics and Chinese. We all know (I hope) about Japanese internment camps.

Large swathes of America are always ready to turn to nativism and hate as core elements of our foreign policy, even as we slap flag decals on our car and chant about freedom and liberty

So here’s Ted Cruz, although I could link to any of the GOP presidential candidates and most of the GOP governors for comparably terrible examples (via the New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson)

President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America—it is nothing less than lunacy,” Ted Cruz said on Fox News, the day after the attacks on Paris. If there are Syrian Muslims who are really being persecuted, he said, they should be sent to “majority-Muslim countries.” Then he reset his eyebrows, which had been angled in a peak of concern, as if he had something pious to say. And he did: “On the other hand,” he added, “Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. But President Obama refuses to do that.”

The next day, at a middle school in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Cruz spoke even more openly about those whom he considers to be the good people in the world. He told reporters that we should accept Christians from Syria, and only Christians, because “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” This will come as a profound surprise to the people of Oklahoma City and Charleston, to all parties in Ireland, and to the families of the teen-agers whom Anders Breivik killed in Norway, among many others. The Washington Post noted that Cruz “did not say how he would determine that refugees were Christian or Muslim.” Would he accept baptismal certificates, or notes from pastors? Does he just want to hear the refugees pray?

Racism. Nativism. Fearmongering. These are American traditions as much as, or more than, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

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