Daily summary: Immigration and the 1980s, the US and Asia after World War II, and Reagan’s medium-range missile treaty

Today’s summary of political uses of the past includes a series of statements about immigration that use the 1980s as a point of reference. A Democratic representative claimed on Friday that the issue of undocumented immigrants goes “back to the 1980s” and was largely sparked by refugees from El Salvador. From the other side of the aisle comes the claim that the gang MS-13 was imported to the United States from El Salvador. And another Congress member evokes episodes of church groups facing persecution for helping undocumented immigrants.

No surprise that the immigration issue would prompt a few glances in the rearview mirror–the debate is about who is an American, and that issue will always bring history to the fore. The 1980s is our point of reference thanks to Ronald Reagan’s signature on the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986, which contained an amnesty provision that precious few Republicans would support today. But the reliance on 1980s history now bleeds into discussions about the origins of the street gang MS-13, refugees from El Salvador, and the vilification of those trying to treat immigrants with humanity. While lawmakers zero in on the 1980s as the defining era for this debate, we hope that historians can remind us that the issue is larger and has even deeper roots.

The Political Uses of the Past Project pulled the following statements from the Congressional Record of September 14, 2017. These will be included in a searchable visualization, still under construction. Some of the statements below are being sent out to experts for commentary. If time and luck are favorable, we’ll have full fact-checks for readers in the near future.

Rep. Thomas Souzzi: The issue of undocumented immigrants goes “back to the 1980s”

The issue of undocumented immigrants has been plaguing this country for almost 30 years now, going back to the 1980s, when people flowed over in the thousands from El Salvador during the death squads and the civil wars during that time.

—Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D–NY), Let’s Try and Make America Fairer, House Floor, September 14, 2017

Historians: Rate or comment

Rep. Raúl Labrador: MS-13 gang 'entered the US in the 1980s'

Furthermore, ICE has found that, “membership of these violent transnational gangs is comprised largely of foreign-born nationals.” The most infamous transnational gang, of course, is MS-13, which entered the US in the 1980s.

—Rep. Raúl Labrador (R–ID), Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, House Floor, September 14, 2017

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Rep. Zoe Lofgren fears repeat of 1980s prosecution of religious groups for aiding immigrants

Zoe Lofgren This statute includes people who give shelter to, transport, or provide other kinds of aid to undocumented immigrants. That means that, under this bill, a religious organization that aids undocumented immigrants could be a criminal gang. This isn’t just theoretical. During the 1980s, members of the faith community were repeatedly criminally prosecuted for providing transportation to undocumented immigrants. In one case, the FBI even infiltrated a Bible study group to learn about the group’s plan to support undocumented immigrants.

—Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D–CA), Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, House Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Chuck Schumer: Will Trump's wall will replace Statue of Liberty as an international symbol?

Charles Schumer Finally, on the wall, it sends a terrible symbol to the world about the United States–about who we are, what kind of country we are. Since the 1880s, a beautiful statue in the harbor of the city in which I live has been the symbol of America to the world–that great torch that symbolizes what a noble land we are. Can you imagine, if in future decades, that symbol were to be replaced with a big, foreboding wall? That is not who America is, was, or, hopefully, will be.

—Sen. Charles Schumer (D–NY), Daca and Border Security, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

Historians: Rate or comment

Sen. Benjamin Cardin: Asian partnerships are the 'greatest foreign policy success stories of the past 70 years.'

Benjamin Cardin The scope and range of partnership with our allies–starting with Japan and Korea–is both dynamic and comprehensive and has been critical for maintaining peace, stability, and economic prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific region. This stability and prosperity has also made the United States more secure and more prosperous. It is why the United States, after the devastation of the Second World War and the Korean war, built partnerships with Japan, South Korea, and other Asian nations. These actions turned the region into one of the greatest foreign policy success stories of the past 70 years. Any successful policy toward North Korea must be built on this foundation and recognize that our strategic alliances combine not just military but also diplomatic and economic elements.

—Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D–MD), North Korea, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Rep. French Hill: Clinton granted $4 billion to N. Korea for a 'freeze'

For our citizens, it is important to trace back the history of US sanctions and the relationship with North Korea. Going back four Presidents–Trump, Obama, Bush 43, and Clinton–we have been dealing with North Korea. President Clinton agreed to a “freeze” and “dismantlement” of the North Korean nuclear program, Mr. Speaker; and as a result, the North Koreans agreed to inspections, and the United States, along with its allies, agreed to $4 billion in payments to the regime. That was in 1994, Mr. Speaker.

—Rep. French Hill (R–AR), Sanctions Against North Korea, House Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Edward Markey: Congress's abdication of responsibility for declaring war started with Korean War

Edward Markey We have abdicated our responsibility to declare war under the Constitution for far too long. It actually began with the Korean war. Now we face the prospect of a second Korean war. If nuclear weapons are going to be used and we have not been attacked, it should be this body that votes to give the President the ability to use those weapons.

—Sen. Edward Markey (D–MA), Executive Session, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Soviet attempts to divide NATO are being played out again today

Elizabeth Warren During the Cold War, Russian deployments of land-based cruise missiles targeting Europe were, in part, a ploy to cause division among the NATO countries, and the same could be said today. It is critical that we respond as one indivisible NATO coalition, unshaken by Russia’s provocations.

—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–MA), National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Reagan's medium-range missile treaty was nonpartisan and a 'bedrock' of national and global security

Elizabeth Warren Support to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and prevent their spread to more nations has always been a nonpartisan issue. When President Reagan signed this treaty into law, he said that “patience, determination, and commitment made this impossible vision [of the INF Treaty] a reality.” Ever since then, the treaty has served as the bedrock of our efforts to build a safe and peaceful world in a nuclear age; to build a world where schoolchildren spend their days learning to read and write, not practicing duck-and-cover drills; to build a world where families live in hope for what tomorrow may bring, not in fear that a flash of light may sweep away everything they love; to build a world that looks to the United States to steadily lead toward sustained peace and security.

—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–MA), National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Mike Lee: WWII internments, McCarran Act, and 2012 defense authorization are 'teachable moments'

Mike Lee These episodes–Japanese-American internment, the McCarran Internal Security Act, and the NDAA for 2012–are teachable moments, if you will. In all three cases, the United States faced real threats from totalitarian foes–foes hostile to our very core values and ideals as a nation. But instead of defying our foes by holding fast to our core values, we jettisoned them in a panic. Fear and secrecy won out. The Constitution and constitutional values lost.

—Sen. Mike Lee (R–UT), National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018–Continued, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Mike Lee evokes Hamilton on arbitrary imprisonment

Mike LeeAlexander Hamilton, writing in Federalist No. 84, called arbitrary imprisonment one of the “favorite and most formidable instruments of tyrants.”

—Sen. Mike Lee (R–UT), National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018–Continued, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Chuck Schumer: Our principles on tax reform same as those that guided 1986 reform

Charles Schumer We have laid out three principles: no reconciliation–that means do it together, not how they did healthcare, which didn’t end up with a great result; second, no tax cuts for the top 1 percent, who are doing just fine, God bless them; third, fiscal responsibility–we should not increase the deficit as we cut taxes, particularly now that we are going to have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help the beleaguered States of Texas and Florida.

By the way, these three principles guided the 1986 tax reform, which was the most successful tax reform we have had in decades.—Sen. Charles Schumer (D–NY), Tax Reform, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Rep. Louie Gohmert: Arthur Laffer told me Reagan tax cuts created 8 percent growth

Louie Gohmert As Art Laffer told me–he was asking me: Louie, you know, once we got that 30 percent tax cut in 1983, the third year of the President Reagan administration, do you know what the rate of growth was? Here we have been talking about 1.92 percent. It was 8 percent or over when they had the big tax cut. People got jobs. They made more money than ever. It was incredible. It is time to get back to that kind of growth.

—Rep. Louie Gohmert (R–TX), Issues of the Day, House Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Deb Fischer: Repeats claim that United States faces 'unprecedented' threats from abroad

Deb FischerThe number and the complexity of the threats we face today are unprecedented.

—Sen. Deb Fischer (R–NE), National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018–Continued, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. John Cornyn repeats claim that United States faces unprecedented array of threats

John CornynFormer Director James Clapper said: “In my time in the intelligence business”–and he served for 50 years in the intelligence business–“I don’t recall a time when we have been confronted with a more diverse array of threats.”

—Sen. John Cornyn (R–TX), National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Sen. Jeff Merkley: Attacks on health care are attacks on founders' vision

Jeff MerkleyThe most important words in our Constitution are the first three words: “We the People.” That is the mission statement for the United States of America. It is written in big, bold, beautiful letters so that even from across the room, if you can’t read the details, you know what our Nation is all about. As President Lincoln summarized, a Nation “of the people, by the people, for the people.” What we have seen this year is quite an assault on this vision of government of, by, and for the people. It came in the form of President Trump’s plan to rip healthcare from millions of Americans in order to deliver billions of dollars to the very richest among us.”

—Sen. Jeff Merkley (D–OR), Executive Session, Senate Floor, September 14, 2017

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Rep. Louie Gohmert: Never in American history did Senate act like it did with ACA repeal

Louie Gohmert I have never seen a situation where the majority party in the Senate was calling those in the majority party in the House, including the Speaker and the leadership team, and calling those of us in the House Freedom Caucus, calling those in the Tuesday Group, and their one big question–I have never heard of this happening in American history–their big question was: Would you please promise us that, if we pass this bill in the Senate, you promise us you will not take up our bill and pass it as it is, because the only chance we have, we are told, of passing this bill in the Senate is if we know for sure it won’t become law. I have never heard of that happening before, but that is what happened this summer.

—Rep. Louie Gohmert (R–TX), Issues of the Day, House Floor, September 14, 2017

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Rep. Darren Soto: Recent Florida evacuation was among largest in US history

Just understanding by the numbers, we had one of the largest evacuations in the Nation’s history. Nearly 7 million people were asked to evacuate from central and southeastern Florida to shelters or other facilities.

—Rep. Darren Soto (D–FL), Hurricane Irma, House Floor, September 14, 2017

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Rep. Darren Soto: This year was first time two category 4 storms hit the US

For the first time in US history, we saw two Category 4 hurricanes make landfall in the same year. Obviously, we need to continue to prepare for the increasing weather events caused by man-made climate change, and that will be why, whether you agree or not with the cause of it, that we will need to harden our facilities, our infrastructure, our buildings, and our utilities.

—Rep. Darren Soto (D–FL), Hurricane Irma, House Floor, September 14, 2017

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