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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Praised 1920s Law That Kept Jews Out

Attorney General Jeff Sessions once praised laws that kept Jewish refugees from entering the United States as “good for America,” a contention that attests to the ex-Alabama senator’s nativist convictions.

Sessions was referring in his remarks, first made two years ago on Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News radio program, to the National Origins Act, which established minuscule quotas for immigrants coming to the country from Eastern and Southern Europe and other “non-white” areas of the world.

Passed in 1924, that regime stayed in force until 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson helped open up the United States to a greater volume of more diverse immigrants. The National Origins Act has fallen into historical disrepute for its discriminatory character, and because it was implicated in the exclusion of those fleeing the Holocaust.

On the same show, Sessions bemoaned that America was now in a period of “radical change” when it came immigration, a sentiment to which Bannon agreed. Around the same time, the then-senator introduced a bill that would limit legal immigration. It was voted down almost unanimously in committee.

But two years ago makes a difference, with Sessions, Bannon and protege Stephen Miller pushing hostile new rules on the undocumented and Muslims. And this might be just the start.

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

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