The United States has been known as the melting pot and, more recently, the “salad bowl”; a country abounding with countless races and ethnic groups. Although the country is packed with such diversity, opposition to immigrants quickly grew and has become a popular sentiment. There was always a white superiority complex throughout the world, which contributed to the hatred against any person of color. However, it wasn’t until around the mid 1800s, when the new wave of immigration started that the anti-immigrant sentiment significantly propagated and the government got involved in regulating immigration. During this period, xenophobia dominated the nation’s citizens and numerous racist laws attacked immigrants. Prior to the new wave, immigrants were the people who built up the country and made strong roots within the country. Therefore, when western Europeans and Chinese immigrants began to come into the country, the old immigrants felt a sense of intrusion and were afraid to lose their jobs to the new incomers. This fear sparked a strong sense of nativism which translated into the anti-immigrant sentiment.
In 1882, The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and marked the first time that the government would control immigration, though it had the hidden intention of keeping the white racial purity of the nation. This act barred any Chinese from entering the country and also made it impossible for the Chinese already in the country to become citizens. The Chinese predominantly resided in the west where they faced severe hostility from natives and were seen as undesirables who were muddying the white America. The impact of this act lasted until the early 1900s and left a strong impression of hatred of outsiders. Over the next few decades, numerous acts were put in place which targeted immigrants with the motive of keeping the nation pure.
Recently, the anti-immigration sentiment has become very prominent within the nation and has been publicized more due to the recent election.The anti-immigration sentiment over time has shown that it is an outlet for fear from citizens; it shows how people feel threatened from newcomers, therefore converting their fear into hate, exclusion, and aggression. Whether it might be a result of the fear of losing job opportunities, or the fear of danger, or simply the fear of change itself, anti-immigrant attitude has swelled into an everyday thought that affects everyone, regardless of whether you agree or disagree.
Our current President Donald Trump used the apprehension of immigrants to his advantage during the 2016 election; because many are afraid of terrorism and losing their jobs, Trump promised citizens a sense of security and the deportation and handling of immigrants. Although he has a radical stance on the topic, people clung to Trump and his beliefs since there is such a strong fear that is overwhelming the citizens. From the 1800s to 2017, the anti-immigration sentiment has grown into something that influences everyone and remains a popular topic of conversation. However, it also reveals the anxiety of the nation and how reluctant people are to accept change. Despite the negative attitude, there is no denying the U.S is made of people from all over the world and from all different backgrounds. We are so diverse and unique as a nation of immigrants, a pillar of our country we should be celebrating, not crushing.
Graphics: Jessica Chang