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Newstalgia Reference Room - The Question Of Immigration In 1953

Newstalgia Reference Room debate program on the then-current (1953) immigration laws and what the policy should be.

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<strong>Even kids weren't immune as suspected spies.</strong>

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The age old debate on Immigration and what, if any, should that policy be. It has plagued administrations probably since Jefferson. In 1953 it was aggravated by the Cold War and the threat of espionage and subversive activities from the flood of Displaced Persons at the end of World War 2. Today it's a bit different, although by 1953's standards probably not all that much. In 1953 there was the creeping onslaught of people not from the traditional European locales, but rather from Asia, due in no small part to the Korean War.

So beyond the fear of espionage and subversion also came the fear of job loss. Those non-European Immigrants, it was thought, didn't have the same work ethic or understanding of the rules and would therefore flood the workforce with cheap labor and destroy the minimum wage and the unions.

To some people, that wasn't such a bad idea. But the bottom line was, Immigration was becoming a problem and some solution had to be arrived at before things got out of hand.

And so, as part of its series American Forum Of The Air from May 17, 1953, the subject "What Should Americas Immigration Policy Be?" was asked of Senator Herbert Lehman of New York and Representative J. Frank Wilson of Texas (both democrats).

Sen. Herbert Lehman: “What we now have on our statute books is not an immigration law but an anti-immigration law. The law as presently written is not a law to authorize immigration or to control immigration. But rather to prevent immigration, to discourage it, to make it difficult as possible for an alien to be admitted to this country, either as a visitor or a student or as a permanent resident. Under our present law every alien is assumed to be a potential spy a saboteur, a criminal or a subversive unless and until he can prove otherwise. Even naturalized American citizens are placed under this bar sinister and can be de-naturalized for any one of a number of acts which native born American citizens can’t perform without penalty. The heart of the law is the national origins quota system, a discriminatory plan based on repugnant theories of the racial superiority of the so-called Nordic Races. The law is further characterized by drastic penalties including deportation for aliens. Against aliens for such innocent acts as failure to carry registration cards, or failure to notify the Attorney General of a change in address. And the widest discretion is given to councils and immigration inspectors and other officials to bar, to exclude, to deport and detain aliens.”

So, the problem has never really been solved - on the one hand you have "No borders - no restrictions" and on the other you have "fuck 'em, kill 'em all" - neither of which is much of a solution.

At least in 2011 there isn't the fear of being overrun by Communist agents posing as students. But there are those gun-toting militias . . .

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