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JFK Speaks About Immigration And Xenophobia

An appropriate remembrance. 51 years ago today.

On this 51st anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a few words from him on immigration:

From the start, immigration policy has been a prominent subject of discussion in America. This is as it must be in a democracy, where every issue should be freely considered and debated.

There was the basic ambiguity which older Americans have often shown toward newcomers. In 1797 a member of Congress argued that, while a liberal immigration policy was fine when the country was new and unsettled, now that America had reached its maturity and was fully populated, immigration should stop--an argument which has been repeated at regular intervals throughout American history.

But emotions of xenophobia--hatred of foreigners--and of nativism--the policy of keeping America "pure" (that is, of preferring old immigrants to new)--continued to thrive.

In the 1850's nativism became an open political movement. Still it remains a remarkable fact that, except for the Oriental Exclusion Act, there was no governmental response till after the First World War.

And to this day, they continue to thrive. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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