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Two immigration bans, 100 years apart

People say history repeats itself. It seems to be happening with Donald Trump’s executive action on immigration. 100 years ago, in 1917, during World War I, the U.S. adopted a travel ban against people from the “Asiatic Barred Zone,” which included Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Some of the methods used to bar people were high taxes and intelligence tests. 1917 was the year of the Russian Revolution, and J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, using the threat of Russian

Communism (the so-called Red Scare), pressured Congress to pass a law restricting immigration. President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the legislation, saying that the law violated American values and “prevented good people from joining American society.” Congress overrode his veto.


Fast-forward 100 years. Now instead of Congress pushing for a travel ban, it is coming from the President of the United States. Notably left off the list of seven Muslim countries is Saudi Arabia where 19 of the 20 September 11 th hijackers were from. Opponents of Trump’s travel ban say Trump omitted Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey from his list because he has business interests in these countries.



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