The below video explains correctly that in the early days of America there was no such thing as illegal immigration and that we had open borders. What was controlled was not who came here but who was a citizen. That’s why naturalization was originally the purview of the federal government and immigration was up to each state. That changed relatively soon after the nation’s founding with legal measures being taken as early as 1790 and signed by George Washington which the video points out. The contention of the video is that being illegal is just the same thing as meaning an unwanted race or an unwanted ethnicity. The video points out that the law restricted naturalization to whites. It doesn’t mention that didn’t include all whites. Only free whites, which excluded indentured servants were included. They had to live in the country for at least 2 years (later changed to 5 years) and they had to renounce any and all loyalty to their home country or the government thereof (including “princes”). The law restricted naturalization, not immigration. Which was sadly evident by the number of black slaves brought into the country. They had to be of “good moral character” and had to take an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America.
In that sense, yes, the 1790 law did legalize racial discrimination. No one can deny that. It’s a fact. Viewed through our modern lens that’s pretty crappy. However, viewed through the lens of people who kept slaves and did so because they didn’t think blacks were human, such a law is understandable. Why would they make someone a citizen that they (clearly erroneously) thought wasn’t equal to them? They wouldn’t.
The video goes on to explain (briefly without much examination) that immigration of whites was also restricted. This, it says, was based on ethnicity. It doesn’t get into detail just why that is other than to say that Catholics weren’t welcome. So it seems less about ethnicity and more about Catholicism. It was a widely held belief that Catholic allegiance was to the Pope and not to the government. The video says such were met with “resentment” by the “white Anglo-Saxon protestants” that claimed they were here first.
Let’s take that on face value and say they did resent them.
Does anyone have a right to immigrate? I say no. I say they have a right to emigrate, but not to immigrate. In other words, your country can’t force you to stay, but neither can you force another country to accept you. That may sound like a distinction without a difference is you have no place to go but shouldn’t a government have the right to decide who enters and who doesn’t?
The right of association is something libertarians often speak of. You get to hang out with whom you like and don’t have to hang out with those you don’t like. In this concept is the implied right to be a racist. Of course if you have read anything I’ve written you know how disgusting I find racism, and how utterly devoid of intelligence it is. Nevertheless, that is the implication in freedom of association. So I cannot say with any certitude that the law was totally based on keeping out “lesser people”. It probably was.
The video concludes that immigration laws are enacted because “new comers, especially those who look different, are seen as a threat to white Americans.”
So while the video gives correct historical information it fails to link that up with its final point that modern immigration is based on race. It fails because it does not account for the blacks and other Mexicans who are just as determined to control our borders. Perhaps that is why there is such a great disconnect on this issue, people cannot understand that modern immigration complaints aren’t founded on who we are keeping out so much as the fact that those coming are doing so in violation of our laws. If those laws are unjust, then they should be changed. But someone who isn’t even a citizen has no right to manage the laws of our nation. They have no demands that we need hear. That’s not to say if we should, or shouldn’t hear them out of morality’s sake, but it is to say they hold no legal claim on us. That is, in my opinion, the crux of the anger over modern immigration. It’s easy to ignore that and say those who want a controlled border are just frightened racists.
I’m not ignorant of the fact that for many race is the reason.
I listen, I know, there are racists out there who want Mexicans and Guatemalans to be kept out because they are brown. I despise that thinking. I also despise it when I hear people say things like “they get what they deserve” or “they are just a bunch of illegals”. No, they are human beings and we should treat them as such. Such language is a sign to us though that the people speaking are taking illegal immigration personally. Perhaps the reason is fear, or racism, or hatred. I know for many Mexicans I’ve spoken to it’s because they came here legally and worked their butts off to go through the process legally to the end. They see those coming here illegally and making no effort to become naturalized with anger by comparison to their own efforts and respect for the law.
If immigrants came and showed respect for the nation, its laws, its people and the American culture, I think we would see a different perspective on this issue.
While I am fully for a controlled immigration I am also for a rather liberal immigration. I do not believe that immigrants are a threat to US jobs. We stand right now (with millions of illegal immigrants and millions more legal) with a surplus of jobs. For the first time in generations we have more jobs open than people unemployed to fill them. Such is the nature of the US economy when allowed to thrive. Imagine, if consumer confidence and a little (yes little) tax cut can create this much prosperity what more of the same would do! We have room, and we have jobs, and we frankly have a need for immigrants. Such have benefited our nation from the start.
I believe that everyone concerned about this issue would do well to set aside race and focus on law. If you don’t want people here because they are brown, set that aside. If you think it’s whites that are the problem, set that aside. Focus instead on the rule of law. Once that is respected then you can have a conversation on what immigration should look like. You don’t wait to stop the water pouring through the cracks in a leaky dam until you have finished deciding who is to blame, the engineer or the contractor. That can come later. We have a law and it is being broken without respect. Fix that and I guarantee you that Americans will be willing to talk opening about policy. Right now they feel the dam is leaking and all they ask for is a finger in the dike. It’s my opinion that is why Trump won. He promised them that much.
Going back in history to trace the racists or anti-Catholic roots of immigration doesn’t address what is going on today, right now. Americans just want to feel the system is fair to them.
In the end, the argument about “we were here first” is actually a very good one.
That’s an argument we use often. A seat at the movies, or a restaurant. A campsite in the national park we plan on spending the weekend at. The toy we grab off the shelf for a Christmas present but haven’t even paid for yet. We don’t own it, but if it’s in our cart our cultural sensibilities say it is wrong for someone to take it out of your cart and go pay for it. Fist fights start over parking spaces based on this very argument. We can argue that “it’s just a parking space” but that ignores the very real sense that something has been violated when someone darts in ahead of you. Don’t pretend like you wouldn’t be mad. We do it with ideas even. If I thought of it first, I own the idea. You get mad if your husband takes over your story, admit it, you do. Why? Because you were telling it first!
In all those situations all the people want is a little respect. That’s all.
That is also all that the American people who are upset about illegal immigration want, a little respect for the law and to a great extent to them.