Abraham Lincoln’s Oft-Overlooked Campaign to Promote Immigration to the U.S. (Harold Holzer, February 8, 2024, Smithsonian)

Between 1830 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in April 1861, millions of Europeans migrated to the U.S., forever upending the demography, culture and voting patterns of the nation, especially in its teeming urban centers. In the wake of such overwhelming change, resistance to immigration and immigrants metastasized until forces arose that were determined not only to restrict foreigners from entering the country but also to disenfranchise, demonize and, occasionally, terrorize those who had already arrived, settled and earned citizenship here. And still the refugees poured across oceans and borders to reach our shores, their growing numbers inevitably challenging, and ultimately redefining, what it meant to be American.

Only when the Civil War began did foreign migration to the U.S. slow significantly. Prospective immigrants understandably shrank from the notion of abandoning one troubled country to relocate to another. To some Americans, the reduction in new foreign arrivals came as an answered prayer. For decades, immigration, particularly by Catholics, had stirred resistance, resentment and, in some cases, violence, destruction and death. Politically, these tensions split and ultimately destroyed the old Whig Party, in which Lincoln had spent most of his political career, inspiring anti-­immigration nativists to form a political organization of their own. The realignment had driven many immigrants into the ranks of the Democrats, who welcomed new arrivals with a warm embrace and a swift path to citizenship and voter registration. The issue roiled the country and exposed an ugly vein of bigotry in the American body politic. And its intractability deflected mainstream attention from the country’s original sin: slavery.

Now Lincoln looked beyond the longtime national divide over immigration to propose his revolutionary idea. Although he reported in his message that refugees were “again flowing with greater freedom” into America, their numbers had yet to reach their robust, if bitterly contested, prewar levels. And the reduction was causing what Lincoln called “a great deficiency of laborers in every field of industry, especially in agriculture and in our mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals.” In other words, America could no longer rely on American workers to fill American jobs. Employers needed to look elsewhere—namely overseas—for labor.

True enough, the Lincoln administration had in a sense contributed to this crisis-­level “deficiency.” As many as a million men had now enrolled in the Union armed forces to fight the Confederacy, and since the spring of 1863, the newly introduced military draft had been wresting laborers from farms and factories and redeploying them into the Army. As Lincoln saw matters, their necessary absence from the home front now threatened national productivity—of civilian goods as well as war materiel. Whether the situation might ease longtime hostility to foreign laborers would be left for another day. First, Lincoln urgently wanted robust immigration to resume—even if the government had to provide the means to accelerate it.

As Lincoln forcibly argued in his message, the time had come to regard immigrants not as interlopers but as assets, not as a drain on public resources but as a “source of national wealth and strength.” He expressed it this way:

While the demand for labor is thus increased here, tens of thousands of persons, destitute of remunerative occupation, are thronging our foreign consulates and offering to emigrate to the United States if essential, but very cheap, assistance can be afforded them. It is easy to see that, under the sharp discipline of civil war, the nation is beginning a new life. This noble effort demands the aid, and ought to receive the attention and support, of the government.

Summoning his full rhetorical power, Lincoln concluded his 1863 annual message with a resounding salute to the Army and Navy, “the gallant men, from commander to sentinel, who compose them”—many of them, he might have mentioned, foreign-­born—“and to whom, more than to others, the world must stand indebted for the home of freedom disenthralled, regenerated, enlarged and perpetuated.” The key words were “regenerated” and “enlarged.”


The Trump-Biden Consensus on the Economy Is Bad for Business (Michael R. Strain, 1/30/24, Financial Times)

Donald Trump and Joe Biden differ in many important ways, but both reject the broad consensus that largely governed economic policy in the decades before Trump’s 2016 election — one that is generally supportive of business and in favour of free enterprise. This is bad for businesses, workers and consumers.

Take free trade and industrial policy. Senior officials from both administrations have explicitly argued for abandoning the international economic order built after the second world war in favour of a new consensus that relies more on government planning and less on market outcomes.

But Trump and Biden’s break with the past goes beyond protectionism. Ronald Reagan chose to use his last speech as president to praise immigrants. “We lead the world,” he said, “because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation.” Trump, in contrast, charges immigrants with “poisoning the blood” of America. Biden, though much less extreme, has surprised his supporters by not being friendlier to migrants and the businesses that rely on them.

Of course, opposition to immigration comes naturally to Democrats, who view the migrants as labor competition, for Republicans it’s disgraceful.


Nathanael’s Epiphany (Malcolm Guite, January 13th, 2024, Imaginative Conservative)

The Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Epiphany (John 1:43-51) takes us to one of the most mysterious and beautiful moments in the New Testament. As the disciples begin to gather around Jesus, Philip finds Nathanael and says “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45) Nathanael’s unpromising response is ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Nathanael is not alone in having this kind of bigoted and prejudiced attitude to ‘other’ places and people…


The immigration game (Ian Linden, 1/03/23, The Article)

Much of what is popularly believed about immigration – I confess to a measure of gullibility myself – is just plain wrong, misguided or exaggerated. The world is not facing an unprecedented refugee crisis, South-North migration is more a rational economic decision than “a desperate flight from poverty, hunger and conflict”. Immigration’s impact on the wages of indigenous workers is negligible. We need migrant labour. We don’t have enough UK-born trained staff in the NHS, social care and a range of vital occupations. Neither development nor border restrictions will stop migration.

The uncomfortable truth for the Right: “control of your borders” includes the right to admit immigrants past them freely


We Need To Make The Moral Case For Immigration: The Democrats are considering implementing Trumpian new immigration restrictions. This is utterly unacceptable and should shock the conscience. (Nathan J. Robinson, 12/18/23, Current Affairs)

Immigrants are often politically expendable; because they can’t vote, it’s easy for politicians to sacrifice them. And when there are waves of migrants to cities, it’s easy for politicians to demagogue on the issue and say: look at this disaster, this crisis, we must get rid of these people, we need to empower the state, we need to build a wall.

We need to fight this fear-mongering aggressively and to stand strong for the rights of our undocumented sisters and brothers. Bridges not walls. If it’s tough for cities to accommodate the influx of migrants, the solution isn’t to send those migrants back (they wouldn’t have risked the journey if they didn’t have good reason to leave). The solution is to figure out how to accommodate those migrants. In other words, let’s begin from the presumption that we are a humane country, a sanctuary that welcomes those in need. And let’s figure out how to best act on that principle. The policy response to new waves of migration should not be to try to stop it, but to make the process as smooth as possible for both the migrants themselves and the communities they join.

Plenty of Democrats will be all too happy to sell out immigrants. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, for instance, has supported new migration restrictions, declaring that he is “not a progressive.” (Previously he had declared: “I am a progressive.”) I have no doubt that Joe Biden will embrace Trump’s policies in the name of “compromise” (he previously kept Trump’s asylum restrictions in place, after all), and will help lay the groundwork for Trump’s massive arrest and deportation program during a second term. This should scare us, of course, but I also think we should not be hesitant to make the argument that restrictions on migration are morally the wrong way to deal with people “heading north to escape gang violence, poverty and natural disasters.” Let them in. At least 98 percent of Americans are immigrants or the descendents of immigrants. Many of those ancestors came at a time when there were no border restrictions at all, and anyone was invited in. We’re a richer country now than we ever were then, so there’s no reason we can’t integrate new people (nobody worries that we’re too “full” for people to have more babies, but immigrants are just “babies from elsewhere” and do not hurt the country just as having children doesn’t hurt the country). We should be a pro-immigrant country focused on legalizing the existing undocumented population (so they don’t have to live in constant fear) rather than finding ways to reduce the U.S. population through migration restrictions.

All Joe had to do was not be Donald and he couldn’t even manage that.