It is a cheering fact, also, that the nation is waking up – a blind and indiscriminate charity is giving place to sober observation. . . . There is rapidly extending a just estimate of danger.

If modern politicians used such flowery language, this might be mistaken for a recent comment about Muslim immigrants to the United States. It actually comes from the pen of minister Lyman Beecher in his 1835 tract complaining about Catholic immigration.

These cheap slaves fill every place. Their dress is scant and cheap. . . . They are whipped curs, abject in docility, mean, contemptible and obedient in all things.

These are the words of labor leader Denis Kearney in an 1878 speech about Chinese immigrants. Ironically, Kearney was an Irish immigrant to the United States.

I don’t want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty. . . . But we must worry about [him] all the time until he is wiped off the map.

This final quote is from Lt. Gen. J. L. De Witt, the American military officer who argued for the removal of Japanese-Americans from their homes on the West Coast during World War II. His words were included in a dissenting opinion in a 1944 Supreme Court case about the internment of Japanese-Americans. You'll learn more about that case in a moment.


For many decades, Americans have objected to immigrants coming to this country. I have written before about the opportunity and benefits of welcoming refugees. Objectors talk about economic or political or safety concerns, but it's hard to ignore the fact that the unwanted groups generally follow a different religion or have a different ethnicity from the objector.

Let's acknowledge that some immigrants commit crimes. Some immigrants even kill people in the United States. But the vast majority of U.S. criminals were born and reared in the United States.

Yes, ideologically-motivated terrorism is scary, but I am about three times more likely to die in a weather-related incident than to die at the hands of a terrorist. About 3,500 Americans have died in terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 2000. About that many people die every year in drowning accidents in the United States. And for every one person killed in a terrorist attack, 180 have died because of a motor vehicle crash.

 Sources:  Terrorism ,  Weather ,  Drowning ,  Motor Vehicles . Since all of the data sets do not go through 2016, I estimated some data for the last 1-2 years based on averages.

Sources: Terrorism, Weather, Drowning, Motor Vehicles. Since all of the data sets do not go through 2016, I estimated some data for the last 1-2 years based on averages.

Fred Korematsu

January 30 is recognized as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California. Korematsu was born in California in 1919, the son of Japanese immigrants. In 1942 he refused to comply with the order to report to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans. He was arrested and convicted. Korematsu appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately decided against him.

After World War II, Korematsu moved to Michigan, where he married his wife, Kathryn. She was from South Carolina. In both California and South Carolina at that time, anti-miscegenation laws would have prohibited their "interracial marriage," but in Michigan, they could legally marry. The couple later moved to California, where they reared their two children. Korematsu's criminal record made it difficult for him to find work.

In the 1980s, new research demonstrated that government officials in the 1940s had suppressed evidence indicating that Japanese-Americans had not posed a threat to national security. Based on this evidence, Korematsu was able to reopen his criminal case. In 1983, a federal judge overturned Korematsu's conviction. Mr. Korematsu said:

According to the Supreme Court decision regarding my case, being an American citizen was not enough. They say you have to look like one, otherwise they say you can’t tell a difference between a loyal and a disloyal American. I thought that this decision was wrong and I still feel that way. As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing. That is if they look like the enemy of our country. Therefore, I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed or color.
 Fred Korematsu during interview for  60 Minutes . Photo courtesy of the Fred T. Korematsu Family. Published under  Creative Commons Attribution Generic License 2.0 .

Fred Korematsu during interview for 60 Minutes. Photo courtesy of the Fred T. Korematsu Family. Published under Creative Commons Attribution Generic License 2.0.

After 9/11, Fred Korematsu spoke up in defense of Muslims who faced illegal detention. He died in 2005.

Every violent death is tragic. I do not mean to minimize the pain and grief felt by those who have lost loved ones to a terrorist. However, I call on my fellow citizens, from the White House to your house: Do not let fear dictate our response to immigrants. Lumping all immigrants together who come from a certain country or who follow a certain religion is unfair and irresponsible.

If you are thankful that you get to live in the United States, why would you want to prevent someone else from enjoying that same opportunity? We will never be able to make America completely safe, but I hope that we will soon make America safe again for immigrants.

Note: You can read more about Fred Korematsu's life on the website of the institute his daughter founded. And thanks to Audra, my amazing wife, for the header photo from the January 29 protest at the St. Louis airport.