"Give me your tired, your poor/.../ Send these, the homeless Tempest Tossed to Me/ I lift my Lamp beside the Open Door

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
This may be heresy, but I am not sure what to think about the so-called "immigration problem".

Three-fourths of my wife's grandparents were born in Germany. They came to the United States during the golden age of immigration through Ellis Island, seeing the Statute of Liberty as something more than a abstraction; it was a symbol of a new life. Her fourth grandparent's parents were from the "old country", coming here just before Ellis Island was established.

For all of my wife's immigrant forbears, the only barrier to becoming a citizen was to get here and to go through the naturalization process. There were no "legal" or "illegal" immigrants as we know them today. There were no artificial barriers to entry, except they had to go through Ellis Island and be screened for communicable diseases and show that they had some "visible means of support", i.e. a relative or a job. All of them had that. They learned to read and speak broken English, and all of their children and grandchildren became educated, property owning, middle class producers in our society.

The 1924 Immigration Act, and successor acts changed all of that, placing limits on the immigration of certain nationalities, and multiplying the bureaucracy of what is now the INS.

Going back to my notions of U.S. history and jurisprudence, are the concepts embodied in the current immigration laws consistent with the concepts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution on which our nation was founded?

Don't misunderstand. I am not suggesting that these laws are unconstitutional. I am just asking for a discussion on whether or not these laws are just and fair as they are now administered.

I would like to hear your views.


Rick Ballard said...

My short answer would be no. The current Immigration Law sets up classes of people with varying privileges and gives precedence based upon accidents of birth. I don't notice much of that in the Declaration or the Constitution.

Not that you won't get a nativist to offer the Knownothing arguments that were a bit tired when first advanced in the 1840's. They chose the original name very well.

CF said...

I think that in 1924 the immigrants intended to become American. They were not asking for classes in their language, social welfare benefits, etc. Don't misunderstand, I like immigrants and feel in general they contribute a great deal. Here, most are Vietnamese and Central American and have middle class values and aspire to integreation.

But I know I'd feel differently if I lived in the Southwest and was paying the social costs of illegal immigration and the rage of the irredentists.

David Thomson said...

“But I know I'd feel differently if I lived in the Southwest and was paying the social costs of illegal immigration and the rage of the irredentists.”

The radical leftists have considerably hindered the assimilation of the Hispanic illegals. Nonetheless, this challenge is not insurmountable. I am very confident that these people can be turned into loyal and productive citizens. We must, however, secure our borders. This is nonnegotiable. We can no longer look the other way while annually thousands, if not millions of illegals, enter the United States.

terrye said...

I grew up in the southwest and believe it or not there were always a lot of people with last names like Gonzalez living in places that had names sounding like ElPaso. And they did assimilate. Sometimes I wonder if people realize that. When I first came to rural Indiana the first thing I noticed was all the white faces. I was not used to that.

I can remember old Seminole Indian ladies who refused to speak English unless they had to. Should we have sent them back?

I know Amish who were born here and speak Dutch at the auction houses and have their own schools and customs and laws. Should we force them to assimilate?

Once upon a time in America there were people who came here for a new life [perid]. That is what they wanted. If they could have walked here from Europe instead of having to cross a ocean they would have done that and no border would have stopped them. If they were willing to risk their lives in the frontier and on the sea what would they have cared about a border guard?

So while I know those days are gone I also know that some people in this country do still voice the attitudes of the Know Nothings.

We need to compromise and remember that immigration is what has made this country grow and prosper and be the unique diverse and open place that it is. I would hate to see that change.

terrye said...


Most of these people who come here to work find jobs in those states. That is where most of the employers are. Not all of them ofcourse. There are undocumented workers in Indianapolis as far as that is concerned.

But the truth is that a lot of folks in those same states have encouraged this immigration for years.

Skookumchuk said...


But I know I'd feel differently if I lived in the Southwest and was paying the social costs of illegal immigration and the rage of the irredentists.

It is the potential for an irredentist movement, at best an ethnic political bloc like the Parti Quebecois, at worst an ETA or an IRA, that changes everything. At the moment I can't imagine it happening. But - over time - seeing the Mexican flags and the crazy signs and reading about the crypto-Communist Mechista leanings of the apparatchiks in city governments make me progressively less sure that it won't.

vnjagvet said...

Some would call this a conservative blog. Some would also call the poster and the commenters conservative by virtue of their comments and posts on other topics.

That illustrates, for me at least, the folly of labels.

Securing the borders should not be at all controversial. Even in the golden era of immigration, the borders were not considered insecure.

Europeans and Asians had to come through ports of entry on the coasts. The Mexican and Canadian borders had a limited number of roads on which large numbers of people could travel.

As Terrye points out, those Mexicans who immigrated were quickly absorbed in a vast southwest much of which was, until 1912, still just US Territory from the Mexican Cession. But that was not seen as a border security problem.

When Pancho Villa made that an issue in 1916 before the US entry into WWI, his New Mexico caper was met with an armed expeditionary invasion of Mexico, which was then ruled by a government friendly to the US. Indeed, George Patton got his first taste of combat in that expedition.

The expedition was specifically authorized and ordered by that paragon of liberalism, Woodrow Wilson. Imagine the uproar in this country if the current President authorized an armed expedition into Mexico to secure the borders.

terrye said...

What strikes me as strange is the emotion in the issue.

I think that securing the borders is a given as well, but then again people can not seem to agree on what that even means.

People forget that there was no Las Vegas and as far as that is concerned much of California was a desert back in the days of FDR. And that desert served as a sort of boder security.

Then came subsidized water and the desert began to fill up with farms and cities and people and all that changed.

I wonder if some of the people out there blowing off about recnsquista and socialism and whatever actually work for the Minutemen because it seems to me they are not exactly helping their cause. I do not think they are representative in any way however.

Skookumchuk said...


I do not think they are representative in any way however.

If 58% of Mexicans think that the Southwest is really Mexico, there could be a problem. It is made more of a potential problem if our elite culture ignores or worse romanticizes these irredentist tendencies.

blert said...

I don't know how you can overlook the profound restrictions on immigration for non-Europeans in the 19th century.

Early on, any black Africans could have only traveled on slave ships.

Later, Chinese railroad workers were not permitted to bring females. Remember the 'Yellow' laws?

The Japanese came in under tighter restrictions from the beginning than any of the Europeans. The emperor sent only perfect couples.

Immigration restrictions were imposed very quickly when the 'wrong' type started to show up in any quantity.

And of course, the natives were displaced and repressed -- some tribes liquidated. There was absolutely no welcome mat out for them.

The big open wound is Mexico. Adjacency permits huge numbers. Their financial impact on our welfare state is swamping the system.

Mexico’s average IQ is about a standard deviation below us. Even taking into consideration that immigrants are self-selecting for above average intelligence and drive they are still disadvantaged. Much of the mental deficiency is due to poor pre-natal care and nutrition. Such maladies cannot be cured by the nanny state.

One reason for their lower wages is their truly lower productivity. Having seen illegal immigrant Russians and Mexicans work the same tasks: the Russians normally bury them. But then that’s true for Chinese, Vietnamese, etc, etc. I suspect that the higher barrier to entry is giving us the cream of the crop from all lands except Mexico.

That is something that is never addressed in immigration policy. Our real 19th century motto for immigrants was: we’ll accept those hardy, brave, intelligent motivated souls who can risk all to make it without state assistance and who by this act benefits the rest of America.

The moat worked out well for America.

With Mexico, and only Mexico, this selection advantage is gone. We have 10% of their population here already. Mexican immigration DOES NOT provide the selection kicker because there is no moat.

Further, they enter a nanny state that showers them with benefits. Quite simply every thing true a century is untrue today. So past is not prolog.

Mexicans are effectively crushing the less fortunate natives by SEVERELY depressing their wages -- if they can even hold a job in competition. Many, many employers are ONLY interested in hiring Mexicans: the rest of the crew is Mexican so any 'Anglo' is rejected. This is seen all of the time in the building trades.

Our taxes are quite a burden on young blue-collar employees. So they are waiting to have kids and will have rarely more than two. Their finances won't support more.

By contrast, Mexican culture requires fathers to have many babies to prove their virility. Concern that their wives will cheat on them while they are up north is resolved by keeping them pregnant.

You don't have to go far to find a Mexican wife with many more children than SHE wanted. She simply had no control over her child bearing.

All of which establishes an ugly rhythm: she’s giving birth to a lifetime of woe. Instead of having a few well cared for babies she has a flock of disadvantaged, intellectually wounded newborns.

Of course, America will suck out the best brains from Mexico – outside the elite families. Which then leaves that nation without the very people who would become their rising middle class. This brain drain has certainly contributed to the ossified politics of patronage which is the PRI.

Mexico needs to get fixed: proper land records, land rights and due process of law. Mexico is so fouled up you can’t really be sure that you own the land your house is on, and if you do that it won’t be sold out from underneath you. Their criminal ‘justice’ system is a crime. They don’t have cops, they have ‘revenuers’.

“MR BUSH…. PUT UP THIS WALL!” (and a moat wouldn’t hurt, either)

vnjagvet said...

Good point, Terrye. And similar to Rick's above.

Knownothings on one side of the die hard spectrum, and Reds for Che on the other.

Should be room in the middle for a deal, says I.

Skookumchuk said...

If we weren't in thrall to an entitlement mentality, if the mayor of Los Angeles weren't a crypto-irredentist, and if the schools proudly taught assimilation instead of allowing the pupils to fly the Mexican flag above an American one upside down, then yes, we could keep the gates open.

But as Rick has said, the Gramscian war will take a long time to win. At least until it is won, we need a Fence.

Rick Ballard said...


The double answer is for the Feds to increase enforcement substantially in LA while refusing to foot the bill for benefits paid to non-citizens. If LA wants to be a Mecca (tee-hee) for illegals then let them foot the bill themselves.

If the statistics published by the INS are correct then the "wall" must consist of enforcement levels that nab an additional 250K-300K undocumented people per year. It's really not that big a deal to reach that sort of enforcement level.

I don't think this is working out according to the demented dreams of the Commie organizers. What a surprise.

terrye said...


For centuries westerners came to this continent without any restrictions other than the difficulty of the trip itself.

My grandfather was two years old during the 89'er run in Oklahoma. My great father staked a claim in that run. A good many of the other people there in that run for free land were immigrants.

Then there was the Homestead Act that amounted the biggest land give away in history and a great many of the people who benefited from it were immigrants.

Mexico is what Europe created in Latin America, a class concience feudal society riddled with corruption. No doubt about that. But most of the people who have come here from Mexico over the years have assimilated. That does not mean all of them will.

terrye said...


The Mexicans may always think that to some extent. I wonder how many Brits still think our founding fathers were traitors? Most Spanish still think we were the war mongers in the Spanish American War. In the antiwar protests, Remember the Maine was their rallying cry.

As far as that is concerned I wonder how many American Indians think that the Spanish, French, English and Dutch were all invaders and thieves. I don't think that means we will be fighting the Indian Wars again.

Skookumchuk said...


. . . while refusing to foot the bill for benefits paid to non-citizens.

It has to be a simpler solution instead of one that has high operating costs and depends on too many people and high tech gizmos that may not survive future budget cuts. Instead of a thousand Border Patrol guys being instructed to look the other way, I don't want 100 radar operators in the AWACS planes looking the other way either.

Y como nuestro Congreso colectivamente no tiene los cojones de un raton, we need to build a physical fence.

Seneca the Younger said...

I'm on your side in this. First of all, if we're going to start fussing about immigration, well, I'l going to call on my metaphorical ancestor Tonto and as "what you mean 'we', white man?"

As to Clarice's point, I think this gets badly overstated, mostly by people who haven't grown up in those contexts. Hispanic immigrants in the Southwest do assimilate to the local culture. It's just the local culture is heavily hispanic already; as someone or other pointed out, they didn't cross the border, the border crossed them. So we have the same situation that the Magyar have in Romania, and German speakers have in Alsace.

We also have people like Tom Tancredo, who I'm convinced are masking deep feelings of inadequacy about their ability to learn another language: they don't like needing to appeal to people who talk funny.

On the other hand, I think you might make a case that the current situation is actually desirable. What we have now are a large population of immigrants who either go through years of bureaucracy, or who walk the Sonora Desert or ship themselves in steerage in order to get here. This strikes me as pretty good qualification for citizenship in itself.

Skookumchuk said...

Seneca The Younger:

[Walking through the Sonoran desert] strikes me as pretty good qualification for citizenship in itself.

It may be taken as a good start. But insufficient. Not to keep beating on un caballo muerto, but it's the pernicious effects of a Democratic civil service and a self-loathing elite media that keeps them in their little apartheid worlds. I agree that the most important task is winning the Anti-Gramscian War. Then we can fight the Islamofascist War. As Lincoln said when confronted with the British building blockade runners in Liverpool - "one war at a time".

And as the proud owner of my first bolo tie (bought three weeks ago in Prescott AZ) and my shelf of Latin cookbooks, may I say that I prize my blended Western heritage as much as the next guy.