Sunday 21 January 2018

'It's not like everyone in Ellis Island had their papers straight' - Obama says immigrants to US demonised in same way as Irish

Former U.S. President Barack Obama Picture: REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Former U.S. President Barack Obama Picture: REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Daniel Bates

Former US President Barack Obama has said that immigrants to the US are being demonised in the same way as Irish people who arrived in America after the potato famine.

In his first public speech since leaving office, the former US president said Irish immigrants were treated like the "other" in the 19th century just like Muslims are today.

Mr Obama drew parallels between the two periods in American history and said that, in both, immigration policy was "driven by biases".

Mr Obama was speaking at the University of Chicago on stage with half a dozen students and activists to discuss how to get more young people engaged in politics.

The closest Mr Obama came to discussing current President Donald Trump was when he talked about immigration. Mr Trump has called for a complete ban on all Muslims entering the US and twice tried to ban them from doing so.

"I always used to say in crowds where folks didn't want to hear it, it's not like everyone in Ellis Island had their papers straight.

"If you look at what was said about [the] Irish when they were coming here in the wake of the potato famine, they talked about them the same way you hear people talking about immigrants today," said Mr Obama.

Irish Independent

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