As everybody decries Donald Trump’s new immigration and travel policies they should take a moment to pause and reflect on what used to be in Dora’s America. Dora Benley, the heroine of the Edward Ware Thrillers at War Series, was born in 1894 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which in those days was a magnet for immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe in particular. It also attracted a number of Italian and Irish immigrants. But suddenly as the First World War began “over there” America began to shut its doors to all these immigrants. They felt the threat from abroad, all those dictators and people who didn’t think like Americans, at about the same time that the western frontier was closing after a period of expansion that had lasted from before the nation’s founding until that date. Dora could have said as did her contemporaries born at the end of the Victorian era with its limitless ideas of expansion and progress, “The world has become a far nastier place”.
From the time of the First World War until the mid 1960’s America’s immigration policy was to severely limit anyone at all coming into the country. There was exceptions for people’s spouses, for instance the war brides of World War 2. But immigrants were no longer thronging into the country as they had in the early years of the twentieth century. This was the time of America First, funded by Dora’s father, Robber Barron Winthrop Benley. America wanted to turn its back on the world and almost didn’t enter World War 2. It took all the ingenuity of the four term President FDR to get the country to fight for the allies, a battle dramatized in the recently published Cheops Books LLC novel, Dark Horse, about the candidacy of Wendell Wilkie and the Republican Convention in Philadelphia in 1940.
In the mid 1960’s Congress came up with quotas for immigration for each country. Now Donald Trump is attempting to come up with a system for keeping track of Muslim immigrants and travelers who visit or migrate to this country in the wake of 9/11 — another America First event. But it is hardly as extreme as the days of Dora’s America.