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Citations Needed

Nov 13, 2019

"A preponderance of foreign elements destroys the most precious thing [a nation] possesses - its own soul,” wrote the politically-influential Immigration Restriction League in early 1919. "The great hotbeds of radicalism lie in the various colonies of alien workmen," declared The New York Times on January 5, 1921. Warning of the "menace" posed by "millions of intending immigrants of the poorest and most refractory sort," The Saturday Evening Post insisted days later that "the character of those who have been coming to us from overseas has unmistakably deteriorated."

While anti-Chinese and anti-Asian laws had been on the books for decades, the passing of the Immigration Act in October 1918––and later the Immigration Act of 1924–the United States ushered in a new era of racist, anti-left, anti-immigrant sentiment.

By the early 1950s, new laws upheld a racist ranking system for “desirable” ethnic groups, making it easier for the U.S. to deport people suspected of being Communists, anarchists and other radicals. All of which happened in parallel with the rise of major media tropes of immigration reporting; tropes that––with varying degrees of subtlety––still exist today.

On this episode - recorded live at Cornell University's Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca, New York on October 25, 2019 - we highlight a number of these tropes, including the media's rampant association of immigrants with criminality and terrorism, deserving refugees vs. undeserving migrants; frequent references to immigrants as invading hordes or vermin infestations; appeals to allegedly race-neutral “law and order” sentiment; and today's right-wing open border panic.

We are joined by Cornell professor Shannon Gleeson.