When did immigration to the United States become illegal? That is the question many people may wonder, as the Trump Administration toughens restrictions on undocumented Americans. As Latin American scholar and author Aviva Chomsky told an audience Thursday evening at Trinity Church of Buffalo, excluding non-white immigrants is a long tradition.
"The United States was founded as a country by and for white people. Immigration was promoted during the entire period up until 1868, when citizenship was restricted to white people," said Aviva Chomsky, daughter of philosopher Noam Chomsky. "Immigration was welcomed because immigration meant white people coming. Others who came were not eligible for citizenship. They were not considered immigrants. They were always excluded and deportable, especially Mexicans."
Chomsky said "immigration by birth" was created in the United States in 1868, requiring further restrictions by race to keep the nation white.
"After 1868, when immigration by birth is created, Congress finds itself in the impossibility that it has created for itself, where most of the nation's population is racially ineligible for citizenship, but anyone can become a citizen by birth," she told WBFO, "and this is when immigration begins to be restricted, when they can no longer keep a country of white people."
As President Trump has ramped up immigration enforcement, the budget has ballooned to handle the increasing number of immigrants being detained and deported. Chomsky said Buffalo is the exception to the rule.
"From the vantage point of Buffalo, it may look as though the United States is allowing many refugees to enter. That's not actually the case," Chomsky said. "The United States has always capped refguees and our decisions about who is considered a refugee and who is eligible for refugee status has always been highly politicized. So the United States has never and does not now have a generous refguee policy."
She said the United States plays a very small part in the global acceptance of refugees.
Chomsky was in Buffalo speaking on behalf of the Western New York Peace Center and Migrants for Justice.