In Trump’s Immigration Remarks, Echoes of a Century-Old Racial Ranking

The president’s vulgar comments about certain countries harken back to complaints about “undesirable nationals” that led to severe restrictions in 1924.

The argument was genteel, the tone judicious, the meaning plain: America, wrote the senator leading Congress’s push for immigration reform in 1924, was beginning to “smart under the irritation” of immigrants who “speak a foreign language and live a foreign life.”The year before, things had been slightly less decorous. A certain unnamed country in Europe was “making the United States a dumping ground for its undesirable nationals,” the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry...