Trump’s New Travel Ban Has One Historic Precedent: The Chinese Exclusion Act

The Trump administration this week announced sweeping new restrictions on travelers from eight countries:  Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen

Days later, the administration formally established that the United States will take in no more than 45,000 refugees fleeing conflict around the world. This is a record-low cap on the number of refugees that the United States has ever resettled since 1980. To put this in context, the previous cap authorized by President Obama was 110,000.

The travel ban and refugee cap are two separate policies, but they are related, at least politically, in the eyes of this administration.

With the exception of Venezuela, in which only government officials are targeted, the travel ban prevents nearly any national from these countries from obtaining a visa to visit, live, study or work in the United States. According to my podcast guest Mark Hetfield, there is only one historic precedent for this: the 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was an explicitely racists law barring all Chinese migration to the United States

Hetfield is President of HIAS–a jewish non-profit organization that is one of nine American agencies that resettles refugees in the United States.

In this episode, Mark discusses the travel ban, its implications for people both in the United States and abroad and also his organization’s new legal strategy to confront this travel ban. We also discuss at length this new refugee cap, which is an unprecedented abrogation of the traditional American approach to refugee admissions.

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