At the Evian Conference of 1938 in France, a stillborn attempt by Western democracies to provide refuge for threatened Jews in Germany and Austria, all delegates criticized German actions but would not allow increased immigration to their own countries.
On July 9, 1938, the proceedings of the Evian Conference show that Peruvian delegate Francisco García Calderón Rey cited the limited immigration quotas of the United States as “an example of caution and wisdom” in defense “of their Nordic heritage and of the Anglo Saxon race against invasion by other peoples.”
Calderón concluded his remarks by stating that to maintain “peace at home” in the face of an unsettled Europe, countries in the Western Hemisphere “must avoid a too hasty mingling of elements which would not adapt themselves to our traditions and ambitions and which would endanger our stability.” In short, a sophisticated way of saying, “Those who don’t look like us need not apply.”
Sadly, xenophobia does not seem an episodic phenomenon in our history, and I hope we can learn from our past.
Leon Weintraub, Washington