Claim: We’re a nation of immigrants.
Reply: Our heritage of immigration is just one facet of our national identity. First and foremost, we’re a nation of Americans. As a free people, we have the right to regulate immigration for the benefit of our national interest.
Alexander Hamilton: “Foreigners will generally be apt to bring with them attachments to the persons they have left behind; to the country of their nativity, and to its particular customs and manners. In the composition and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency.”
Claim: The descendants of immigrants cannot in good conscience keep out new immigrants.
Reply: This is like saying that a private business, staffed by people who were once job applicants, is morally obligated to hire all new applicants. This is ridiculous because the purpose of a business is to sell products and make money, and it must gear its hiring program to meet those ends. Similarly, a nation exists to serve its national interests—and it should regulate immigration by that standard.
Frederick Douglass: “The old employments by which we have heretofore gained our livelihood, are gradually, and it may seem inevitably, passing into other hands. Every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived immigrant whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place.”
Claim: Immigration has been good for America; we need it to keep benefitting us. Immigrants, after all, built America.
Reply: Certainly immigration can help America, but to say that it is always good, regardless of quantity or quality, is absurd. It’s like saying that alcohol is always beneficial because a daily glass of red wine will improve a person’s health—and from that observation going on to claim that two bottles of wine a day will be even more beneficial. The specific question to ask is whether our massive level of immigration today is helpful or harmful. In the past, a high level of immigration helped to populate and develop a vast and undeveloped country. But today our nation is populated and built. So why do we need to keep on admitting so many builders?
Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL): “America must not be overwhelmed. Every effort to enact immigration legislation must expect to meet a number of hostile forces. One of these is composed of corporation employers who desire to employ physical strength at the lowest possible wage and who prefer a rapidly revolving labor supply at low wages to a regular supply of American wage earners at fair wages.”
Claim: We have the moral duty to be a haven for the world’s poor and downtrodden.
Reply: Morality does not require us to do what is impossible and self-destructive. World population now increases at the rate of about 80 million a year, with most of this increase in poor and relatively poor countries. Let’s suppose we decided to admit one-tenth of that number a year, eight million, a total about six times higher than our current annual intake of legal and illegal immigrants. With immigration causing problems now, imagine what stress that increase would cause, one which would add 100 million people in little more than a decade. For most people in the world, prosperity is something they will have to create at home. If America remains strong, we can provide them with assistance. But if we are overwhelmed, we will lack the capacity to help anyone.
Francis A. Walker, President, MIT 1881-1897: “Charity begins at home; and while the people of the United States have gladly offered an asylum to millions upon millions of the distressed and unfortunate of other lands and climes, they have no right to carry their hospitality one step beyond the line where American institutions, the American rate of wages, the American standard of living, are brought into serious peril.”
Claim: Diversity is our strength. All cultures are equal and equally enriching.
Reply: Anything labeled as good cannot be discerned without reference to quantity and quality. Certainly, we can enjoy the diversity of having a number of ethnic restaurants in a city, but that hardly means we should welcome profound cultural differences which threaten our national unity. Some diversity is good, but taken as universal can be divisive and destructive. The statement that “all cultures are equal and equally enriching” is one that flatly contradicts reality. In terms of things that nearly all people want, such as freedom and prosperity, it is manifestly clear that some cultures provide them far better than others. Western countries, including the United States, are a case in point. That’s why so many people around the world want to move here. If all cultures were truly equal, those people could find the satisfaction they want within their own cultures without leaving home.
Calvin Coolidge: “American institutions rest solely on good citizenship, created by people who had a background of self-government. New arrivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept American. For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration. I am convinced that our present economic and social conditions warrant a limitation of those to be admitted. Those who do not want to be partakers of the American spirit ought not to settle in America.”
Claim: This land belongs to the American Indians. Only they have the right to set immigration policy.
Reply: Whoever truly believes this claim, should be the first to call for an end to immigration. Why allow more foreign thieves to come and take Indian land? Of course, no one really believes this claim. It’s just a rhetorical cheap shot to denigrate immigration control by manipulating guilt about historic injustices done to Indians. Those were unfortunate, but dwelling on past moral failings should not keep us from living in the present and dealing with present realities. Today, American land belongs to Americans of all backgrounds, including American Indians. Allowing guilt to paralyze our will to make necessary decisions about immigration is gross irresponsibility, a patent evil which will jeopardize our country’s future. We can make up what we owe to Indians by treating them justly as citizens today.
Teddy Roosevelt: “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.”
John Adams: “Among the number of applications, cannot we find an American capable and worthy of the trust? Why should we take the bread out of the mouths of our own children and give it to strangers?