Last week, I posted on my Facebook page headlines clipped from an article in the Dec. 6, 1910, issue of The Salt Lake Tribune. The article was a scary warning about aliens.
These aliens were swarming into America under the guise of emigration from what we know today as “s---hole” countries.”
There were suggestions to address this problem in 1910. Indeed, they sound much like the ones proposed today. The immigration committee forwarded them to Congress.
“The commission,” The Tribune’s story stated, “presents several proposals by which restriction of immigration might be effected, including a reading and writing test, the exclusion of unmarried, unskilled laborers, limitations in the number arriving at any port and from particular races and restrictions as in the amount of money in their possession.”
Specifically mentioned as unwanted aliens by race were East Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans.
Damn. No money, no spouse, no skills and non-Caucasian. That’s about as undesirable as a person could get in 1910. In that situation, a person might just as well jump off the dock and try to swim back home.
But if America is crammed full of anything, it’s irony. We had the Irish immigration problem from 1850 to 1860, a time when my people came to America. The loathsome Irish were not wanted here because they came from a s---hole country experiencing a famine.
At the same time the palest skin on earth was unwanted in America, black skin was enthusiastically welcomed as long as it showed up here as property rather than as potential immigrants.
It would have been impossible to be more illiterate, unmarried, unskilled and cashless than African slaves, yet we couldn’t get enough of them.
The irony deepened when we funneled thousands of unwanted Irish male immigrants from a s---hole country into the Union Army to fight a war that cost a million American lives, thanks to the forced importation of aliens from other s---hole countries.
Given that the 1910 immigration commission consisted of congressional members from Mississippi and Alabama, it’s not surprising that skin color was still an issue 50 years after the Civil War.
Let’s talk about s---hole countries, and exactly what qualifies a country for s---hole status today.
First on the list has to be countries where people of color live. President Donald Trump wasn’t talking about Britain, France or Sweden when he reportedly made what is fast becoming the “insult heard round the world.”
Next on the s---hole country list of qualifications is ongoing strife. Who needs people fleeing war because they’d rather not raise their children in places we’ve helped bomb into s---holes.
Then there is skill. What possible need does America have for people who have never seen an Xbox, driven a Prius, or can’t text with their thumbs?
Yeah, a percentage of these people wanting to come here may end up being criminals. Many of them will be poor. Some of them — maybe even a lot of them — will be unskilled.
But the one attribute they’ll bring with them is the same one that our own immigrant ancestors brought. And it made America great.