The Atlantic

Donald Trump and a Century-Old Argument About Who's Allowed in America

U.S. presidents as far back as Harry Truman denounced entry policies based on nationality, calling them discriminatory and un-American.
Source: Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Trump’s reported suggestion that the United States needs fewer immigrants from “shithole countries” and more from those like Norway revives an argument made vigorously a century ago—though in less profane terms—only to be discredited in the decades that followed.

In 1907, alarmed by the arrival of more than a million immigrants per year, Congress established a commission to determine exactly where people were coming from and what their capacities were. Over the next four years, under the leadership of Republican Senator William Dillingham of Vermont, the commission prepared a 42-volume report purporting to distinguish the more and less desirable ethnicities.

The commission’s “Dictionary of Races or Peoples” laid out

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