By Mark Naison
The first wave of anti-immigrant hysteria in the US took place before the Civil War and was directed at Irish Catholic immigrants. It led to the formation of the Know Nothing Party and also sparked mob attacks on Catholic institutions in many northern cities
The second wave of anti- immigrant hysteria took place after the Civil War and was directed at Chinese immigrants. It led to mob violence against Chinese workers, the destruction of Chinese communities in scores of Western towns and the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Acts
The third wave of anti immigrant hysteria took place during and after World War I, largely directed at Southern and Eastern European immigrants. it resulted in the revival of the Ku Klux Klan as an anti immigrant as well an anti-black movement, and resulted in the draconian immigration laws of 1921 and 1924, which sharply reduced immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and made it impossible for millions of people to seek asylum from Nazism after Hitler’s rise to power
Now a new wave of anti-immigrant hysteria is rising, largely directed at Latino immigrants. It would be sad and ironic if some of the participants in this crusade are descendants of people who, several generations back, were targets of anti-immigrant hysteria themselves.
Over the years, some of my best students at Fordham have been children of immigrants- most recently from Albania, West Africa, the West Indies, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, China, Vietnam, Ecuador, Colombia, Bangladesh, and Russia. Not only have they been great students, but their families have helped revitalize struggling neighborhoods, especially in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. In New York City, immigrants are the ones who work the night shift to keep the city running, open small businesses, and produce the lion’s share of the valedictorians of the city’s public high schools. Their energy and optimism are a huge asset to a global city.