By Ernesto Castañeda, for The Washington Post

At the end of May, in another attempt to slow down the immigration of people from Central America, President Trump threatened to set tariffs on trade from Mexico. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump for “recklessly threatening” Mexico, “our close neighbor and friend to the South,” and even many Republicans blanched over the idea of tariffs. Under pressure from his own party, on Friday he pulled back on actually implementing the tariffs.

Such threats fit into America’s centuries-long history of excluding people of Latin American origin, whether through incendiary rhetoric or efforts to equate national borders with ethno-racial groups. In fact, immigration policy has long been marked by a central contradiction: the desire for economic and territorial growth requires an increase in the nation’s population and diversity, but white Americans fear that new groups will curtail their cultural, political and economic dominance, and so work to reduce the political voice and citizenship rights of people of color.

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The Contradiction at the Heart of Immigration Restriction