To the Editor:

America is a nation of immigrants , and we have always welcomed immigrants — if they were like us.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 said that only free, white persons could become naturalized citizens of the United States. This was the law of the land until 1952 when, in the midst of the Cold War, it was seen as in impediment to getting the support of nations of color around the globe.

In the early 19th century, America’s religious makeup was overwhelmingly Protestant Christian. Then, about mid-century, Catholics from Ireland and Germany began coming in large numbers, which gave rise to an anti-immigrant political party called the American Party, but popularly known as the Know-Nothings. Still, most of the immigrants were from western and northern Europe.

Then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the immigration flow changed to southern and eastern Europe. Anxieties heightened, not only because of religious diversity — Catholics from Italy and Poland, Orthodox Christians from the Balkans and Jews from Russia — but also because this new immigration came from countries with autocratic regimes. How would they be able to understand the nuances of a democratic system?

In 1882 came the the Chinese Exclusion Act and in 1907 a “gentleman’s agreement” between the T. Roosevelt administration and the Japanese government barring further migration of Japanese laborers to America.

Then, in the 1920s, new immigration laws set national quotas biased in favor of western and northern Europeans. Asians were virtually excluded, except for Filipinos, who came from an American territory.

It was not until 1965, when Americans were trying to come to terms with their racism, that immigration was opened up to the world without racial bias (although discrimination against gay immigrants did not end until 1990). Since 1965, America has increasingly come to look more like the world in terms of population makeup. This has global significance. If we are not able to get along with the world’s racial, religious and cultural diversity here in his country, what hope is there for world peace?

Larry Lowther

Ellensburg

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