If you want to identify the proper American policy, the sensible and correct way of doing things, I commonly observe, all you need to do is go back a bit in history to a point in time before Liberalism, Socialism, Progressivism, Reformism, Statism, and Goo-Goo-ism had hijacked the American Experiment and messed everything up.
What, then, was the real, traditional American policy on Immigration?
Well, boys and girls, before 1875, immigration to the United States was utterly and totally unrestricted. The Page Act of 1875 was the very first US law restricting immigration in any way. The Page Act was aimed at restricting the immigration of cheap Chinese labor and “immoral” Chinese women. This was the first of a series of laws aimed at restricting Oriental Immigration, based on philosophically questionable principles (excluding cheap labor competition, racism) as well as more reasonable practical considerations (the disinclination of Oriental immigrants at that time to assimilate and their continued loyalty to alien cultures, polities, and princes).
There was no federal role in naturalizing immigrants at all before 1906. Prior to the Naturalization Act of that year, naturalizing people was entirely up to the individual states. The 1906 Law federalized, and standardized, the naturalization process (and, for the first time, insisted on recording the names of wives and children of immigrant men becoming naturalized as citizens). Things were a lot more informal before 1906.
Additional legislation followed, in 1907 and 1908, and in 1917 and 1918, banning the entry of the disabled and diseased, requiring literacy on the part of non-elderly immigrants over 14 years of age, and placing more barriers to immigration from Asian countries. But, there remained no quotas at all on non-Asian immigration until 1921. In 1921, a national negative reaction to the recent arrival of people like my Lithuanian grandparents, all the Italians, the Poles and Slovaks, and the Eastern European Jews produced the Emergency Quota Act, which restricted the number of immigrants admitted from any country annually to 3% of the number of residents from that same country living in the United States as of the U.S. Census of 1910. This was, we need to recall, the great era of the second creation of the Ku Klux Klan, not to be confused with the original Reconstruction era Klan which was dissolved in the 1870s, whose membership peaked in the mid-1920s at 4-5 million men (roughly 15% of the eligible, non-Negro, non-Jewish, non-Catholic population). The quota system of the 1921 Act remained in place until 1965.
Restricting immigration is a Progressive Era policy constituting a radical break with earlier American practices and, I would argue, with the philosophy the country was founded upon.
The 13 colonies which united to become the United States were not culturally or ethnically uniform. The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay and the Cavaliers of Virginia both originated from England, but they had been cultural opponents, blood enemies, and opposing parties in a Civil War in their home country. Rhode Island was founded by religious radicals who would not live under Massachusetts law. Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers; Maryland by Roman Catholics. New York had originally been a Dutch colony. The Swedes first settled Delaware Bay. The original colonies, before the Revolution, contained significant populations as well of Scots Irish, German religious dissenters, French Huguenots, Scots Highlanders, and various other European groups.
Benjamin Franklin famously complained about Germans with “swarthy complexions” coming over, settling in Pennsylvania, refusing to learn English and not assimilating.
Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nationâ€¦and as few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, â€™tis almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertainâ€¦Not being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of itâ€¦ I remember when they modestly declined intermeddling in our Elections, but now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties…In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.
Those rascally Germans, in some well-known cases, have never assimilated and it isn’t hard, even today, to find in Pennsylvania Amish, Mennonites, Dunkards, Schwenkfelders, and so on who still speak German. But Franklin was obviously wrong. They never did take over culturally or politically. Most of their descendants did assimilate, and the ones who didn’t we look upon today as quaint and think that they make an excellent tourist attraction.
Attempting to restrict the free movement of people, proposing to restrict the supply of labor in order to prevent competition, undertaking to have government favor a particular culture, and attempts to exclude hopelessly inferior people are all classic Progressive policies.
Hispanic immigrants come here because Americans need affordable low-skilled labor not otherwise available and we hire them. I would contend that the federal government has no business trying to come between me and Jose the Mexican, if I want to hire Jose to mow my lawn and Jose wants to take the job.
I’ve gotten around a good deal in the last decade, and my own experience persuades me that, in much of the country, all the low skill manual labor these days is being done by illegal Hispanic immigrants.
People who think that the government can stop illegal immigration (when Americans need and want to hire affordable low skill labor) are just as crazy as the people who think the government could successfully ban private gun ownership or who suppose that the government can win the War on Drugs.
In the first year of law school, they teach students the difference between things which are malum in se, things like theft and murder, which are wrong in themselves, and things which are malum prohibitum, things which are wrong only because the government says so.
It’s pretty easy to enforce laws against things which are malum in se. Even the criminals who break those kinds of laws know they are in the wrong. But malum prohibitum matters are different. Normal people just perform a mental calculus about how likely they actually are to get caught, and when they recognize that the state is in no position to catch them, they commonly just ignore those kinds of laws and do as they like.
People who get bent out of shape because somebody crossed the border illegally to come here to do honest work are crazy. They suffer from an excess of law worship.
Wake up and smell the coffee. There are something like 12 million illegal immigrants living in this country. This is exactly like guns. We are never going to go from door to door, searching through every innocent, law-abiding person’s house to confiscate all the guns. And we are never going to go door to door and round up 12 million, mostly honest and hard working people, then march them off, with women and children crying, at bayonet point to the cattle cars to be deported. Germany in the 1930s, the Soviet Union under Stalin, could pull off that kind of thing, but it is not in the American character.
I agree that we should not be providing welfare to illegal aliens, but straightening out our domestic politics and policies is our responsibility, not theirs.
Ever see my traditional memorial day posting? This country let my grandparents in. My grandparents were Roman Catholics (shudder!). They were Lithuanian, representatives of a people with a lot fewer ties (Thaddeus Kosciusko built West Point!) to American history and culture than the Mexicans, whose ancestors owned, settled, and explored what? 8 or 9 states before the first Anglo-Saxon ever set foot in them. What did the US get in return? They got labor in the coal mines, dangerous work that most Americans didn’t want to do, which labor played a key role in building industrial America and keeping the offices and homes in American cities lighted and heated for generations. America also got from my paternal grandparents three sons and one daughter who served in uniform during WWII.
If this country ever has another serious war, it will be damned glad it failed to deport all those illegal alien Hispanics, whose children will probably actually serve (unlike our privileged elite intelligentsia).