UC San Diego Researcher Traces American History Of Democracy, Racist Immigration Laws
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Aired 4/22/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.
David Scott FitzGerald is the co-director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego and co-author of the book, "Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas."
The U.S. Constitution boldly stated that all men are created equal at a time when that notion was truly revolutionary.
But in order to make good on that claim, American democracy had a long way to go. A new book examines how over a span of 200 years, the United States and other North American countries dealt with the influx of racially diverse immigrants. It catalogs American efforts to keep its population mostly white.
David FitzGerald, co-director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego, co-authored the book, "Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas" with David Cook-Martin of Grinnell College.
They found that, among all countries in the western hemisphere, the U.S. barred people based on race longer than any other nation.
"Most people in the U.S. and around the world have the sense that democracy and American political values are incompatible with racism," FitzGerald said. "But when you actually look at the facts, very often they have gone hand-in-glove."
U.S. immigration reform is stalled in Congress with little hope of anything passing before the mid-term elections.
FitzGerald said, "The issues of racial selection are very much alive in current policy debates."
But he said they're not as visible.
"Laws do not discriminate based on race," he said. "That's an important change."
FitzGerald said an example of this is the diversity visa program.
He said policymakers used post-civil rights language meant to increase the number of European immigrants in the U.S. under the program.
"In practice, half of those people who get visas today are from Africa and Ukraine," FiszGerald said. "And political support [for the diversity visa program] has collapsed."