May 27, 2007


America the Generous: A Lost Story of Citizenship (LAWRENCE DOWNES, 5/27/07, NY Times)

Congress has taken the week off from the debate, with members going home to districts that have already been inflamed by the loud and loony right, which has decided that the bill is that filthy thing “amnesty” and that the nation’s character would be defiled if it ever forgave illegal immigrants for coming here to do our worst jobs, or let too many more people in to put down roots. You could call that view unkind and uncharitable. You could also call it unwise, given economic realities.

I would add un-American.

My view has been informed by “Americans in Waiting,” a book by Hiroshi Motomura, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, about what he calls a lost story of a confident young country that opened itself to newcomers in ways that seem unthinkably generous today.

For about 150 years, Professor Motomura writes, from shortly after the country’s birth to the end of the Ellis Island heyday in the 1920s, when there were no numerical limits to immigration and the flow was mostly from western Europe, new immigrants could gain many of the rights of citizens by signing a document declaring their intention to naturalize. They became Americans in waiting, able to work, vote, buy land and clear homesteads.

The elegant idea was that immigration was simply the beginning of an inevitable transition toward full membership in a growing country. The ancestors of so many Americans, including today’s immigration hard-liners, benefited from it.

Funny how the last one into the lifeboat always thinks he filled it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 27, 2007 5:55 AM

Those were the days before bi-lingual education, the welfare state and multi-culturalism. Schools were local affairs and the geniuses at the Department of Education had to work for a living since there was no Department of Education. It's not the same country. Bad comparison.

Posted by: hugh at May 27, 2007 7:08 AM

"days before bi-lingual education, the welfare state and multi-culturalism"

Those things are a result of the desires of immigrants. One therefore concludes that America assimilates to the immigrant, rather than the immigrant assimilating to America.

In a similar vein, they don't call him "the robin hood of the west" for nothing.

Posted by: h-man at May 27, 2007 8:07 AM

If we had multiculturalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I rather doubt that Herr Eisenhower and millions of other German-Americans would have been so willing to fight their cousins on behalf of their adopted country.

Posted by: jswendt at May 27, 2007 12:55 PM

Funny how the last one into the lifeboat always thinks he filled it.

And funny how religious conservatives who are big on Law are eager to overlook massive lawbreaking when it suits them.

Downes does not mention that they still at least attempted to turn away criminals and those with contagious diseases. Nothing like that happens with an open border.

He also ignores the fact that the last "amnesty first, then we'll crack down on illegal immigration" promise turned out to mean amnesty plus even more illegal immigration. That's what many know this bill means, too. The obvious solution/compromise is better legal immigration system + border enforcement + employee sanctions + deportation of illegals arrested for drunk driving, assault, drugs, etc. (and cutting off all federal law enforcement funds to cities and states who refuse to do that), and then, once the situation is under control, some sort of fine + back taxes + amnesty for those that remain. But the left hates enforcing laws against the poor, and the right hates doing so against employers, so that won't happen.

Hugh and jswendt: Indeed.

H-man: Unusual for you, that's incorrect. Those are by and large enthusiasms of liberal white folks.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 27, 2007 4:00 PM

Whether "White liberal folk" or people of color, multiculturalism is essentially tolerance on steroids and will hinder the thaumaturgical transformation of immigrant to American.

Posted by: h-man at May 27, 2007 6:24 PM

American monoculture is why we assimilate folks so easily. The mosat conformist society in the world has little trouble forcing conformity.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2007 9:30 PM

The Law trumps laws. Chattel slavery and Jim Crow were the law. They were unLawful. Likewise it would be unChristian to enforce our immigration laws, so America doesn't.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2007 9:33 PM

German-Americans weren't.

Posted by: oj at May 27, 2007 9:37 PM

So it's "un-Christian" to want to stop gangsters, rapists, robbers, drunk drivers, smugglers, drug dealers, terrorists, and people with drug-resistant TB from entering the country? Put that to a vote and I'd bet you'd find the USA is about 99% "un-Christian."

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 27, 2007 11:38 PM

We're Christians, so we have to die to show how Christian we are.

Posted by: Sandy P at May 28, 2007 12:48 AM

Hasn't it occurred to anyone that amnesty makes them LEGAL immigrants? Who cares how they got to the U.S.? Jail the bad guys and eat the oranges picked by the rest. Sheesh.

Here is why Christians support amnesty:

Le 25:35 And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: [yea, though he be] a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.

Le 19:34 [But] the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I [am] the LORD your God.

If you are not a Christian or don't believe the above, then you have more to fear than immigrants willing to pick your oranges.

Posted by: Randall Voth at May 28, 2007 4:20 AM

Which is why so many libertarians and liberals are anti-immigrant despite it violating their ideology.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2007 7:09 AM

The vote, predictably, shows that 70% of the Christian Nation wants them legalized.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2007 7:10 AM

The bible is not a suicide pact.

Posted by: h-man at May 28, 2007 7:50 AM

The fear that immigrants are deadly is simple hygeine theory.

Posted by: oj at May 28, 2007 9:03 AM

The verses quoted above are not an option, they are the Law, directly from Leviticus. Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not eradicate it. (And for the Christians who wrongly believe the Old Testament was superseded by the New Testament: Jesus commanded us to treat our neighbors as ourselves.)

Posted by: Randall Voth at May 28, 2007 6:55 PM