... fascinating and timely ...biting asides make The Guarded Gate’s darker moments easier to swallow, but Okrent never soft-pedals the horrific consequences of American racism that the book conveys (or its parallels to rhetoric and policy increasingly ascendant in our own time) ... Okrent also makes a convincing case that the quota system applied by the 1924 law, which dramatically reduced the numbers of immigrants admitted from some ethnicities but left others virtually untouched, was even worse than shutting down immigration altogether ... Okrent shows tremendous insight but also tremendous restraint, letting the alarming rise of racist eugenics unfold in its own time, and painstakingly documenting its increasing influence on American attitudes and immigration policy until its impact on the world at large—as well as its ugly reflection in the current historical moment—becomes painfully clear.
...a vivid new book ... Okrent’s is largely an intellectual history—if we can use that term to describe the shoddy thinking of his subjects—of nativist ideology and ideologues from the mid-19th century to the first comprehensive immigration restriction law of 1924 ... Okrent’s discussion misses a major aspect of eugenics: anxiety about falling fertility among educated women ... chilling is Okrent’s documentation of American influence on Nazi 'race hygiene.' As early as 1932 Walter Schultze of the Nazi euthanasia program called on German geneticists to 'heed the example' of the United States ... bigotry was by no means buried by World War II. Its targets are fungible but it typically blames disadvantaged groups for problems more often created by privileged groups. It is a stream that has sometimes been forced underground, and some argue that polite, whispered racism is as bad as the loud kind. Okrent’s history belies that argument: Quiet bigotry should be condemned, but when it is shouted and legitimated by people with power and influence, it can become deadly.
Okrent makes clear that [the] restrictions of European Jews and other refugees from fascism during the 1930s was not the only evil wrought by these thinkers. The Nazi ideology that caused them to flee was heavily influenced by American scientific racism. A sobering, valuable contribution to discussions about immigration.