His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan has stated, “We didn’t have this intense anti-immigrant sentiment back then”. Hmm, that’s strange. The Know Nothings and Ku Klux Klan did not harass and attack Catholics, especially those immigrating to the U.S.? The Ku Klux Klan didn’t have members in both major parties and whose anti-Catholic views were shaped by them?
Immigration is neither an intrinsic evil nor an intrinsic good. Some people immigrate to another country with honest intentions and others do not. The Church has repeatedly defended the state’s responsibility to regulate immigration such as in Saint Thomas Aquinas’ works and Saint John Paul II’s Catechism of the Catholic Church. Being a skeptic of illegal immigration and amnesty alone does not necessarily make you a bigot. Unless you’re Ann Coulter. I certainly would not say there is less tolerance for immigrants today than decades ago.
Anti-Catholic and other anti-immigrant propaganda cartoons frequently made the newspapers in America from the late 19th century to mid-20th century. Thomas Nast, a German immigrant ex-Catholic convert to Protestantism, was notorious for anti-Catholic rhetoric in his political cartoons. The Know Nothings were very virulently anti-Catholic especially after the first major influx of Irish and Italian immigrants; acts of violence were even committed against Catholics with homes, churches and schools being burned to the ground. This is a major reason why so many American Catholics were registered Democrats; the Democratic Party defended Catholics immigrating to America when all other parties cared little to nothing to defend them.
The hostility did not end with the Know Nothings. The Ku Klux Klan picked up where the Nativists left off. The Klan repeatedly published books, editorials and newspapers depicting anti-Catholic rhetoric claiming Catholics planned to create an Inquisition forcing Protestants to convert to Catholicism and subject themselves to whom they called “the Antichrist” (in reference to the pope). This rhetoric was vamped when Al Smith ran for president in the 1930’s against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Klan had members in both the Democratic and Republican Parties, thus having some sizeable influence in both parties; the Klan was even instrumental in the prohibition campaign against alcohol and even used the Catholic doctrine of temperance of alcohol intake as anti-Catholic rhetoric.
As previously mentioned some Democrats (e.g. Hugo Black) and Republicans (e.g. Edward L. Jackson) were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Their connections to the Klan influenced their decisions in politics and contrary to popular opinion, neither party back then was particularly secularist; so people in both parties claimed to be good Protestants who opposed Catholic immigration to the country. Due to this Protestant connection to the Klan, many Protestant ministers were influential Klan leaders such as Alma Bridwell White, Branford Clarke and E.R. Stephenson. So obviously the U.S. has a past of xenophobia towards Catholics. Then there’s also xenophobia towards the Jews, something else the Ku Klux Klan was really good at. To say today’s critics of illegal immigration are at large the same if not worse than yesterday’s anti-immigration xenophobes is extremely dishonest and it sounds like politicizing an issue somebody should avoid especially a prince of the Church.
You can find the article here: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/08/19/immigrants-are-a-gift-says-cardinal-dolan-at-knock-shrine/