Letter: Inflicting misery by decree
As an immigrant from Latin America myself, the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy for those crossing illegally into the U.S. from Mexico, instituted via Executive Order, deeply saddened me. It also made me want to learn more about past immigration policy: was "zero tolerance" as vicious and unprecedented as it seemed? My research says yes.
Our main Immigration Acts are those of 1924 and 1965. The 1924 Act assigned a quota to each nationality based on that nationality's proportion of the American population, and prohibited entry to immigrants ineligible for citizenship under citizenship laws. The quotas favored people from Northern and Western Europe, at the expense of those from Southern and Eastern Europe. The citizenship provision barred Asians. What of Latin Americans? There were no limits. In fact, the 1924 Act explicitly exempted migrants from Central and South America from the quotas, just as it exempted Canadians. The 1965 Act abolished the quota system and established a policy based on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor. Over the next four decades, these policies greatly changed the demographic make-up of the American population. Immigrants entering the US came increasingly from countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America as opposed to Europe.
Not only does Trump's "zero tolerance" policy destroy the essential trust of the 1965 Act, but it comes from executive decree. Both the 1924 and 1965 acts were the result of extensive discussion and debate by the Senate and House. An executive order would have been unthinkable. Why do Republicans in Congress allow Trump to simply decree serious changes in immigration policy that was previously determined by Congress? Please, come November, go to the polls and elect a Congress with the values stated on the Statue of Liberty and the spine to block the cruel decisions of Trump.
Shaftsbury, July 7
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