Saturday, September 04, 2010

American Immigration Issue a Founding Issue

By Douglas V. Gibbs

Immigration to the United States is a good thing. Our nation grew, in part, because of the millions of people who immigrated to this nation seeking a better life over the last few centuries. We all come from a history of immigrants. Even the "Native Americans" are essentially immigrants, or at least they are to this continent, for their ancestors also came here from another place seeking a better life - or at least a better hunting ground.

The Founding Fathers were aware of the immigration issue. They were aware of its benefits, and its potential for being destructive. They knew that as this nation grew, immigration policy would need to be tailored to only allowing immigrants that would contribute to our society, improving our nation rather than tearing it down.

The United States, as it grew, was all too willing to attract people with particular skills, for the betterment of American Society. Attracting people from abroad to fill necessary positions that enabled the nation to grow was an important aspect to our prosperity as a nation. The people who forged this nation had no objection to attracting immigrants to our shores. The Founders were also aware that too much immigration, or an onslaught of immigrants that were not particularly interested in assimilating into society and improving our nation, could bring social turmoil and ultimately be destructive to our political system.

In Thomas Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Mr. Jefferson posed the question, "Are there no inconveniences to be thrown into the scale against the advantage expected by a multiplication of numbers by the importation of foreigners?"

Jefferson determined that if America attracted immigrants coming from nations that gave them no experience living in a free society, these people would likely bring with them ideas and principles of the tyrannical governments they left behind, and these particular ideas and principles would most likely be at odds with American liberty. Throwing a large number of immigrants all of sudden into the nation could make America "more turbulent, less happy, and less strong."

Alexander Hamilton also had much to say about the immigration issue, inviting his fellow Americans to consider the example of another people who had been more generous with their immigration policy than prudence dictated: the American Indians. Hamilton wrote, “Prudence requires us to trace the history further and ask what has become of the nations of savages who exercised this policy, and who now occupies the territory which they then inhabited? Perhaps a lesson is here taught which ought not to be despised.”

Hamilton, while recognizing the diversity of thought as being a strength, was not necessarily convinced that diversity of other kinds was in the best interest of the United States. The safety of a republic, according to him, depended “essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment, on a uniformity of principles and habits, on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias and prejudice, and on that love of country which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education and family.”

In other words, only immigrants who assimilate, and have the same love of country, will benefit this nation. Otherwise, the immigrants can remain outside the nation's borders.

Hamilton also wrote that if there are too many immigrants who do not share the views of Americans in relation to the improvement and liberties of this nation, "The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all-important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency.”

Even George Washington, our beloved first president, indicated in a 1794 letter to John Adams that there was no particular need for the U.S. to encourage immigration, “except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions. . . The policy or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for by so doing, they retain the language, habits, and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them.”

Knowing this of the American States, some immigrants actually brought documentation with them to testify to their good character. The United States was a step up, and to be accepted you needed to show that you were beneficial to the free society she represented. They understood, as did our Founding Fathers, that coming to America was a privilege, and one that must be met with the right attitude and intentions.

In 1790 a debate actually erupted in Congress over immigration. A bill had been offered to naturalize immigrants after only one year of residence. The Congress of the United States in 1790 went against the bill, and what followed as an incredible debate about whether or not Ohio (who was the force behind the bill) was trying to sell citizenship too cheaply.

Some of the quotes from that debate give us an interesting insight into the opinions of those early Americans regarding the immigration issue.

"There is another class also that I would interdict, that is, the convicts and criminals which they pour out of British jails. I wish sincerely some mode could be adopted to prevent the importation of such; but that, perhaps, is not in our power; the introduction of them ought to be considered as a high misdemeanor." -- Mr. Burke, South Carolina

"Now, the regulation provided for in this bill, entitles all free white persons, which includes emigrants, and even those who are likely to become chargeable. It certainly never would be undertaken by Congress to compel the States to receive and support this class of persons; it would therefore be necessary that some clause should be added to the bill to counteract such a general proposition." -- Roger Sherman, Connecticut

"Now, if every emigrant who purchases a small lot, but for which perhaps he has not paid, becomes in a moment qualified to mingle in their parish or corporation politics, it is possible it may create great uneasiness in neighborhoods which have been long accustomed to live in peace and unity." -- Mr. Smith, South Carolina

"Shall stories be told of our citizenship, such as I have read in the Pennsylvania Magazine of the citizenship there? If my memory serves me right, the story runs, that at a contested election in Philadelphia, when parties ran very high, and no stone was left unturned, on either side, to carry the election, most of the ships in the harbor were cleared of their crews, who, ranged under the masters and owners, came before a Magistrate, took the oath of allegiance, and paid half a crown tax to the Collector, as the Constitution required, then went and voted, and decided the contest of the day. On the return of one of the vessels, whose crew had been employed in the affair of the election, they fell in with a shoal of porpoises off Cape Henlopen: “Ha!” said one of them, “what merry company have we got here! I wonder where they are going so cheerfully?” “Going,” replied one of his comrades, “why, going to Philadelphia, to be sure, to pay taxes, and vote for Assembly men!” I hope, Mr. Chairman, we have more respect for our situation as citizens, than to expose ourselves to the taunts and jeers of a deriding world, by making that situation too cheap." -- Mr. Jackson, Georgia

A Mr. Lawrence was not so convinced. Watching today's election fraud and attempt to change our political system through the means of mass immigration, he may not have said: "Nor do I believe, sir, there is any just ground of apprehension that people will come to this city, from Nova Scotia, or any other part of the world, in bodies of three or four thousand, to turn our elections, or interfere in our politics."

The Father of the Constitution also chimed in on the immigration debate: "…It is no doubt very desirable that we should hold out as many inducements as possible for the worthy part of mankind to come and settle amongst us, and throw their fortunes into a common lot with ours. But why is this desirable? Not merely to swell the catalogue of people. No, sir, it is to increase the wealth and strength of the community; and those who acquire the rights of citizenship, without adding to the strength or wealth of the community are not the people we are in want of. And what is proposed by the amendment is, that they shall take nothing more than an oath of fidelity, and declare their intention to reside in the United States. Under such terms, it was well observed by my colleague, aliens might acquire the right of citizenship, and return to the country from which they came, and evade the laws intended to encourage the commerce and industry of the real citizens and inhabitants of America, enjoying at the same time all the advantages of citizens and aliens." -- James Madison

The Founding Fathers realized how important is was for immigrants to assimilate into the society, not try to change the society into something that fit their own agenda: "…conceived a man ought to be some time in the country before he could pretend to exercise it. What could he know of the Government the moment he landed? Little or nothing: how then could he ascertain who was a proper person to legislate or judge of the laws? Certainly gentlemen would not pretend to bestow a privilege upon a man which he is incapable of using?" -- Mr. Smith, South Carolina

And finally, Mr. Stone said of assimilation: "I would let the term of residence be long enough to accomplish two objects, before I would consent to admit a foreigner to have any thing to do with the politics of this country. First, that he should have an opportunity of knowing the circumstances of our Government, and in consequence thereof, shall have admitted the truth of the principles we hold. Second, that he shall have acquired a taste for this kind of Government."

These attitudes during that time period are a large part of the reason for Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution. That section was designed to stop the importation of new slaves, and to prohibit the immigration of people of the federal government's choosing. Too many immigrants not interested in fulfilling the American legacy were deemed as being dangerous, and could even be considered an invasion. And, after all, was it not also Constitutionally mandated that the Federal Government protect the States from invasion? (Article 4, Section 4). Sealing the border, after all, has not been just about keeping the typical illegal aliens from entering the country illegally, but also to stop those that would come into this nation from places like the Middle East to harm us.

Of course, the most fascinating part of this issue is how the United States is being demonized because of the desire by the people for immigration policy to be enforced - while the criticizers practice immigration policies that are, in actuality, stricter than the laws in the United States.

Is that a "don't do as I do, do as I say" scenario?

Reading the writings of the Founding Fathers, I think the issue is more than just a matter of a difference in opinion. Enforcing immigration laws, and enabling states like Arizona to practice their enforcement authority, is an integral ingredient to protecting our nation from ultimately collapsing under the weight of foreign invaders.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

What did the Founding Fathers say about immigration? -- Michelle Malkin

Illegal aliens from terrorist nations released in U.S. by DHS - Examiner

Brewer Condemns Report to UN Mentioning Ariz. Law - NewsMax

Blocking Portions of Arizona Immigration Law is Unconstitutional - Political Pistachio

Italian Immigration Laws - Ehow

U.S. Immigration Laws vs. Other Countries - One Old Vet

Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 . Notes on the State of Virginia - University of Virginia Library

1794 Letter from Washington to Adams - TeacherWeb

Judge Bolton Blocking Parts of Arizona Law Unconstitutional - Political Pistachio

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