America has seen this before

America has seen this before. This anti-immigrant sentiment being churned up by Donald Trump and others? It’s not new.

Trump wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans and deport those who are in this country illegally back to whence they came. He wants to send their kids back, too – even those who were born here.

If some of that refrain sounds familiar, it’s because it’s an old tune with some new lyrics.

A similar kind of xenophobia once swept the country under the banner of something called the American Party.

"As a national political entity, it called for restrictions on immigration, the exclusion of the foreign-born from voting or holding public office in the United States, and for a 21-year residency requirement for citizenship," according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Membership in the American Party was also restricted to Protestant men.

American Party members weren’t targeting Mexicans. Rather, they were worried about the influx of Irish-Catholics and Germans.

Their brand of intolerance allowed them to gain control of the Massachusetts legislature, win congressional elections and carry some big-city mayoral races, including Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Party members were blamed for burning a Catholic church in Maine and giving the tar-and-feather treatment to a Catholic priest in that state.

Look how far we’ve come.

Last week in Boston, two men were arrested for urinating on and beating a homeless man authorities believe was targeted because he was Hispanic.

One of the men charged for the assault reportedly invoked the name of Trump, who made disparaging remarks about illegal immigrants when he announced his candidacy for president.

"Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported," one of the brothers allegedly told police after he was arrested.

Trump’s response when told about the incident? He denounced it, of course.

Sort of. He proclaimed it a "shame."

Then, almost before that word even had a chance to reach anyone’s ears, he continued: "I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate."

He sounded like the proud papa of a pair of schoolyard bullies who just kicked the dogsnot out of a disabled kid at recess.

Trump deserves credit, we suppose, for not trotting out the ol’ high school cheer urging his followers to "Hit ’em again – harder, harder."

Still, it’s hard not to see his "passion" comment as a tacit acknowledgment that he’s OK with it being open season on immigrants. Who’s next, we wonder.

Welcome back to the 1840s and 1850s, when the American Party flourished before eventually breaking up over the issue of slavery. You can still read about the party in the history books, though its members were better known in the press by another name.

They were dubbed the "Know Nothings."

It’s a name that still fits in some quarters.