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Society & Culture

Excluding Muslims: Facts and Fictions

Donald Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration has drawn fire from the establishment right.  “It’s a violation of our Constitution, but it also undermines the character of our nation,” Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina told the Des Moines RegisterNational Review’s Jim Geraghty opined that Trump’s plan created a forbidden “religious test for immigration” and thus “would violate the Constitution.”  The usual suspects have taken to the airwaves expressing confidence that the Supreme Court would be compelled to strike down a ban on Muslim immigration.

Considering 21st-century America’s worship at the altar of equality, such assumptions are understandable.  However, a closer look at historical practice, the Constitution, and the High Court’s exegesis yields a different conclusion.

Since colonial times, exclusion of aliens presenting undesirable characteristics has been the norm.  As early as 1645, colonial Massachusetts prohibited paupers from entering the jurisdiction.  Other colonies followed this example and added felons and “gaol-birds” to the list.  Regulating the entry of aliens was left mostly to the states until the last quarter of the 19th century.  At that time, Congress passed a series of measures excluding such undesirables as convicts, prostitutes,...

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