The History of “Go back to where you came from”

Noah Tesfaye
4 min readJul 20, 2019

This past week will go down as one of the most remembered weeks in the Trump presidency. Seemingly everywhere you looked, everyone from sportscasters to YouTubers was talking about his statements this past week. And for the right reason.

To be blunt, this attack on Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley started with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Earlier the previous week, House Democrats and the speaker went after these Democrats, primarily AOC, after she spoke out against the Speaker voting a spending bill that in part would fund ICE. Pelosi later dismissed their influence in Congress, noting they “didn’t have any following.” This, combined with a tweet from House Democrats that cooked up a storm, opened the gates for what ensued.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted in short succession this tweet referencing indirectly the four congresswomen Pelosi called out.

These words are not only blatantly racist but echo levels of racism that have existed throughout American history.

The racist sentiment “Go back to where you came from” is about as old as this nation. Thomas Jefferson, who owned many slaves throughout his life (that nearly merits its own post), was strongly in favor of colonizing parts of Africa and sending back slaves in part of his plan for emancipation. Furthermore, with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the US government purposefully made it more difficult for new immigrants to have any significant voting rights in America.

But it goes beyond that. The fundamental idea of “go back to where you came from” goes against the 14th Amendment. Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, explained in this thread about how we don’t write white or born here, but “all person born or naturalized” are entitled to equal protection under the law.

Noah Tesfaye

Just someone trying to share my story and find who I am, one post at a time