Archive for Monday, January 22, 2018

Opinion: Immigration is a Sisyphean task

January 22, 2018


Washington — In 1790, the finest mind in the First Congress, and of his generation, addressed in the House of Representatives the immigration issue: “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.” Perhaps today’s 115th Congress will resume the Sisyphean task of continuing one of America’s oldest debates, in which James Madison was an early participant: By what criteria should we decide who is worthy to come amongst us?

The antecedents of the pronouns “we” and “us” include the almost 80 million who are either immigrants — not excluding the more than 11 million undocumented ones — or their children. They might be amused to learn that in the only full-length book Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he worried that too many immigrants might be coming from Europe with monarchical principles “imbibed in their early youth,” ideas that might turn America into “a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass.”

A century later, Theodore Roosevelt, who detested “milk-and-water cosmopolitanism,” saw virtue emerging from struggles between the “Anglo-Saxon” race and what Roosevelt’s friend and soulmate Rudyard Kipling called “lesser breeds without the law.” TR, who worried that the United States was becoming a “polyglot boarding house,” supported America’s first significant legislation restricting immigration, passed to exclude Chinese, because he thought Chinese laborers would depress American wages, and because he believed they would be “ruinous to the white race.”

In 1902, in the final volume of professor Woodrow Wilson’s widely read book “A History of the American People,” he contrasted “the sturdy stocks of the north of Europe” — e.g., Norwegians — with southern and eastern Europeans who had “neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of quick intelligence.” U.S. Army data gathered during World War I mobilization demonstrated, according to a Princeton psychologist, “the intellectual superiority of our Nordic group over the Mediterranean, Alpine and Negro groups.” Richard T. Ely, a leading progressive economist, spent most of his academic career at the University of Wisconsin, but first taught at Johns Hopkins, where one of his students was Woodrow Wilson. Ely celebrated the Army data for enabling the nation to inventory its human stock just as it does its livestock. In 1924, Congress legislated severe immigration restrictions, which excluded immigrants from an “Asiatic Barred Zone.”

For more on this unsavory subject, read “Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era,” by Princeton economist Thomas C. Leonard. And “One Nation Undecided” by Peter H. Schuck, professor emeritus at Yale Law School, who writes: “In what may be the cruelest single action in our immigration history, Congress defeated a bill in 1939 to rescue 20,000 children from Nazi Germany despite American families’ eagerness to sponsor them — on the ground that the children would exceed Germany’s quota!”

The next phase of America’s immigration debate, like the previous one, will generate the most heat about border security and whether those who are here illegally should stay. The heat will be disproportionate.

The border was irrelevant to the 42 percent of illegal immigrants who entered the U.S., mostly at airports, with valid visas that they then overstayed. Spending on border security quadrupled in the 1990s, then tripled in the next decade. Now that net immigration of Mexicans has been negative for 10 years, Americans eager to build a wall should not build it on the 1,984-mile U.S.-Mexico border but on the 541-mile Mexico-Guatemala border.

Fifty-eight percent of the more than 11 million — down from 12.2 million in 2007 — who are here illegally have been here at least 10 years; 31 percent are homeowners; 33 percent have children who, having been born here, are citizens. The nation would recoil from the police measures that would be necessary to extract these people from the communities into the fabric of which their lives are woven. They are not going home; they are home.

After 9/11, attitudes about immigration became entangled with policies about terrorism. So, as The Economist noted, “a mass murder committed by mostly Saudi terrorists resulted in an almost limitless amount of money being made available for the deportation of Mexican house-painters.” This month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 states, making 21 arrests, approximately one for every 4.5 stores. Rome was not built in a day and it would be unreasonable to expect the government to guarantee, in one fell swoop, that only American citizens will hold jobs dispensing Slurpees and Big Gulps.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


P Allen Macfarlane 3 months ago

" would be unreasonable to expect the government to guarantee, in one fell swoop, that only American citizens will hold jobs dispensing Slurpees and Big Gulps."

Most Americans are not aware of the number of immigrants, legal and illegal, that perform tasks in agriculture or the food industry that our Caucasian citizens would not think of performing. The work is dirty and hard and low-paying: think meat-packing plants and harvesting row crops. I guess we are willing either to forego the products made from these crops or pay the higher price at the supermarket when the supply is reduced or the higher wages have to be paid to laborers who will replace these immigrants.

Gary Stussie 3 months ago

P ... "most Americans are not aware of the number of" green cards issued under the Chain Migration process. For the last decade, the majority of the the number of annual immigrants have entered this country through chain migration. Each illegal Dreamer can be expected to sponsor an average of 3.5 additional immigrants, who in turn will each sponsor another 3.5 ....The Center for Immigrant Studies describes the impact:

Of the last 33M Green Cards, 20M were issued as a result of chain migration. Implying we have little control as to the potential contribution/potential liability each immigrant represents to the nation.

BTW you racist ... I am Caucasian and I picked fruit in Oregon and California every summer in my younger years and our children detassled corn in Indiana each summer when they were young.

I suspect liberals, like yourself, do not care about these immigrants, the food chain discussed in your comment, or a secure boarder. What is clear is that you do not understand or consider the impacts of uncontrolled immigration (take a trip to Los Angeles) or failure to assimilate. Your primary concern is to maintain the cycle of illegal immigration/amnesty/financially dependent Democrat voters.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 months ago

And what are your statistics that this is a bad thing? And they do assimilate. You know that. That's why the Dreamers are afraid of being deported. They barely speak the language of their parents. The are totally assimilated and would be out of place in the country of their parents.

Bob Smith 3 months ago

To stay with a mythological theme, dealing with illegal aliens should be addressed as Hercules dealt with the Augean stables.

Shelley Bock 3 months ago

My son-in-law was the recipient of chain immigration. His mother had previously received a lottery visa. My son-in-law came to the US as a refugee from his country. He presently makes a significant contract salary in his profession. He has been recognized as a humanitarian in his profession. And, I've seen him parent two grandchildren in extraordinary fashion.

His country of origin was one which Trump has deemed unworthy of producing Americans. I recently visited where he was born and got to see a developing country in the 21st Century. Much was different than in the US, but what I found was a population that knows how to survive with much less. And, I observed friendly and worthy people who don't need to be characterized by Trump's slur.

Some wish to come to the US; some wish to visit and return home. But, if they do come to the US, after proper vetting, then come. No one vetted my relatives from Germany in the 19th Century and we turned out OK.

Bob Smith 3 months ago

I would submit that the world was a much different place in the 19th Century.

P Allen Macfarlane 3 months ago

Maybe so, but the anti-immigrant sentiment was alive and well back then, too.

Shelley Bock 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Of course. There had been a major upheaval in France with the terrorism of the French Revolution. There was major conflict throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and the North American continent for decades. Marx was writing. There was the bloodshed of the Paris Commune. The British subjugated large populations throughout the world and fought the Indian Mutiny and invaded Afghanistan. Germany invaded France and won. European empires besides the British were expanding their reach. America fought wars of expansion with Mexico and Spain, a civil war and moved west to overwhelm the native population. Finally, there was economic change brought about by the expansion of the Industrial Revolution. And, the US stole rights to build the Panama Canal, fair and square.

Was it that much different than present day? A much different place with as much turmoil, disruption, death, and destruction as the present day world. My relatives should have been vetted. They could have been the type of undesirables that would be excluded now.

Had Trump's desires been in effect at the time my son-in-law came to the US, he would have been excluded from entry. He is now an American citizen and travels on his American passport. He would be on the outside looking into the US. And, he is no "s...hole"!

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 months ago

My immigrants settled here without permission in early 1700's. Should I be deported?

Bob Smith 3 months ago

If you were born in America, you are a citizen. No deportation allowed. If you want to punish yourself for the real or imagined sins of your ancestors, feel free to indulge.

Bob Summers 3 months ago


What a crock of guano.

There are too many people in America.

Club America is at it's capacity for the number of people it has. It no longer needs any more non paying members.

Not a hard issue to solve if the congenital Liberal were not involved.

P Allen Macfarlane 3 months ago

"There are too many people in America."

So, when are you leaving?

Bob Smith 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Hungary seems to have solved their problem of people illegally crossing their border.

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