[F]or all the good that immigration can do (and Iâ€™m an immigrant to the U.S., who is very glad that America let me in, and who generally supports immigration), unregulated immigration can dramatically change the nature of the target society. It makes a lot of sense for those who live there to think hard about how those changes can be managed, and in some situations to restrict the flow of immigrants â€” who, after all, will soon be entitled to affect their new countrymenâ€™s rights and lives, through the vote if not through force. …
Letting in immigrants means letting in your future rulers. It may be selfish to worry about that, but itâ€™s foolish not to. … [E]ven for America, the influx of millions of new citizens â€” both the potentially legalized current illegal immigrants and the many others who are likely to come in the wake of the legalization â€” can affect the society and the political system in considerable ways. It seems to me eminently sensible to be concerned about the illegal immigrants who may well change (in some measure) your country even if your ancestors were themselves illegal immigrants who changed the country as it once was.
Via Clarice Feldman.
But America has always been a country determined to occupy a new continent and build a new country, and America has always had a shortage of affordable labor. That’s why they imported criminals and slaves to Colonial America, and that’s why –until the 1920s– we had essentially unlimited immigration.
After hundreds of years and the influx of countless unrelated groups of people, the United States, I would argue, has a tradition of pluralism and assimilation of immigrants central to its own identity. America previously allowed in all sorts of groups with conspicuously undesirable characteristics, all of whom definitely changed the culture of the country in significant ways.
Native-born Americans in generations gone by endured the Scots Irish lawlessness and propensity toward violence, German-speaking religious extremists’ refusal to assimilate or to use modern technologies, Irish drunkenness and talent for political corruption, the popery and beer garden culture of Bavarian Germans, Italian criminal conspiracies, Jewish enthusiasm for radical politics and bad art, and the general barbarism and illiteracy of representatives of essentially every variety of rural European peasantry. Previous waves of immigration brought crime and violence, political corruption, poverty and illiteracy, and enormous cultural change to America, but immigrants typically rapidly prospered and assimilated, climbing out of poverty while, in the meantime, doing all the disagreeable, dangerous, and low-paying jobs native-born Americans wouldn’t do. Their children filled the ranks of the American Armed Forces and won America’s wars.
As a grandson of turn-of-the-last-century immigrants, I strongly disagree with Mr. Volokh. I think that, as Americans and as the descendants of immigrants, we have an obligation to affirm and defend our national tradition of welcoming and assimilating other immigrants succeeding our own ancestors in turn. The “I’m aboard, Captain, pull the ladder up!” position is simply disgraceful for an American.