“Not too long ago, some of the people who broke U.S. law to come into the country were Jews.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 11.13.46 AMAs Donald Trump moves forward with plans to build a racist barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, signs Executive Orders barring most refugees from entering the country, and temporarily halts the issuance of visas for people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, many of us are angry and ashamed.

Historian Libby Garland, a professor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY, shares these sentiments. At the same time, as a longtime researcher specializing in immigration policy, she is able to put today’s conservative momentum into a broader political context.

Her first book, After They Closed the Gates: Jewish Illegal Immigration to the United States, 1921-1965 [University of Chicago Press, 2014] looks at the impetus behind two exclusionary quota laws passed by Congress in 1921 and 1924 that were meant to limit the number of newcomers entering the United States.  “The quota laws grew out of a widespread belief that some kinds of foreigners could be kept out of the nation, and out of a certainty that these groups could be recognized, counted and stopped from entering,” she writes.