E pluribus unum?
“[T]he policy or advantage of [immigration] taking place in a body may be much questioned; for, by so doing, they retain the Language, habits and principles which they bring with them. Whereas by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures and laws: in a word, soon become one people.” –George Washington
Out of many, one.
That was the national motto proposed by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Both simple and elegant, it embodied the notion that the original 13 Colonies were united as one under the Declaration of Independence. By extension, it implied that all who had come to America’s shores (and all who would come) must be united – must all form one front – in defense of freedom and liberty. For 200 years, we were, with some notable exceptions, one people united behind constitutional republicanism. But with the social degeneration of the ‘60s and the economic decline of the '70s, that unity began to disintegrate. This was the era in which multiculturalism emerged – the era in which ethnocentricity became chic.
Arthur Schlesinger, a former Harvard professor and senior advisor to JFK, published a retrospective on this era in 1991 called “The Disuniting of America.” Schlesinger wrote primarily about the orthodoxy of self-interested hyphenated-American citizen groups – who, rather than unifying to become one, were diversifying to become many. He warned that the cult of ethnicity would result in “the fragmentation and tribalization of America,” the natural consequence being that these special-interest groups would be co-opted by the political parties.
“Instead of a transformative nation with an identity all its own,” Schlesinger wrote, “America increasingly sees itself in this new light as preservative of diverse alien identities – groups ineradicable in their ethnic character.” He asserts, by way of inquiry, “Will the melting pot give way to the Tower of Babel?”
The disuniting of America is a foundational concern underlying much of the current security, economic and social debate (both rational and irrational) about immigration. This is the concern that a nation, which is already ethnically fragmented internally, risks complete disunity of its national integrity in the absence of borders.
It is clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans are rightfully adamant about many immigration issues: strict border security and enforcement; automatic detention and deportation of illegals; no extension of amnesty or fast-track citizenship for illegals; preservation of our tax-subsidized medical, educational and social services for American citizens and documented immigrants; strong penalties against employers who hire undocumented migrant workers; and “Americanization” of new legal immigrants – rather than the ill-conceived provisions of bilingual schools and government services which, in effect, dissuade immigrant integration.
We are also resolute in our rejection of birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens, though this right is assured by our Constitution’s 14th Amendment. However, at the time of this Amendment, there was no provision distinguishing legal and illegal immigration. In other words, legislation outlawing this birthright for illegal aliens might well pass the Constitutional test.
On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want to pay more for labor-intensive services like building, hotel and restaurant maintenance, or for labor-intensive products like agricultural produce. In addition, we don’t want to pay more for low-skilled and low-paying day-labor jobs like those associated with landscaping and construction. Indeed, there are few native-born Americans lining up for any of these jobs (though additional Welfare reform might create some competition).
Currently, there are 10 to 15 million illegal aliens in the United States. Only one president in four decades, George W. Bush, has dared make reconciling this issue a central administration objective. This is because the issue has no clear political consensus.
The only contemporary comparison to the cross-party divisiveness of immigration is the recent debate over Dubai Ports World management of U.S. port terminals. You’ll recall that this issue pitted the President and his national-security team against disingenuous Democrats eager to appear tough on national security, weak-kneed Republicans unwilling to stand on principle in an election year and an American public fully caught up in the moment.
However, while the Dubai Ports debacle was clearly manufactured by opportunists in both parties, the immigration debate is all too real – this isn’t just another flash in the political pan.
President Bush has charged Congress with taking up this complex issue.
The House has already approved the Sensenbrenner immigration legislation, which essentially proposes to round up all illegals and drop them at the border, and criminalize anyone who had anything to do with them in the interim. This plan leaves one to ponder whether such tough-minded reform was spun out of xenophobic angst, or was merely a byproduct of everyday American nativism. The Sensenbrenner plan does not have a critical provision for guest workers, and is largely unenforceable – or, if enforced, largely unaffordable. But it plays well with the same constituency that believed the Dubai Ports folks were really interested in smuggling nuclear bombs into the U.S.
Worse, the Senate compromise bill would provide illegals amnesty [read: fast-track citizenship] rather than guest-worker status if they have been in the country for five years and do not have a criminal record – other than the misdemeanor crime of crossing the border illegally. This proposal should be a deal-breaker for any legislation. If here for less than five years, they would have to apply at one of 16 designated ports of entry for a new temporary “guest worker” visa for low and unskilled workers.
The House Bill makes no provision for amnesty, which is good, but it also makes no provision for guest-worker permits, which is, well, asinine. Of course, the assumption is that when the House and Senate bills are reconciled in conference, the House wants to start the negotiation on guest workers at zero. Unfortunately, there is some public confusion between “amnesty” and “guest worker” – the latter being both desirable and essential to the U.S. economy.
Of course, every member of the House and Senate is mindful of the fact that there are millions of American voters of Latino origin – eight percent of the electorate – which is a significant factor in how this legislation will be framed.
To debate this issue meaningfully, however, one must first survey the facts regarding the security, economic and social implications of immigration.
In any discussion about immigration, border security must come first. Even if Mr. Sensenbrenner can find a way to round up all undocumented Latino immigrants and deport them, they’ll all be back in a few days unless we can establish some real border security. Clearly, this would entail both a physical barrier and enough security personnel to enforce both border and internal immigration regulations.
A formidable security wall along our border with Mexico would also provide a measure of safety against terrorist incursions, but there are already serious security problems brewing within our borders.
In our current state of ethnocentric disunity, we tolerate cadres of radical Latino identity groups composed of both naturalized immigrants and illegal aliens. These groups provided the ethnic incitement behind last month’s half-million-strong protests in Los Angeles and other cities from coast to coast. These were protests not just on behalf of immigrant “rights”; for many, they were a means of promoting the reunification of the southwestern United States with Mexico. This “reconquista” movement is marked by the flying of the Mexican flag over the American flag.
The Latino reconquest movement is on the verge of violent nationalism – if it hasn’t already become just that – with all its terrorist implications. If they do in fact resort to violence, all bets are off in regards to the status, guest worker or otherwise, of any illegal alien in this country from south of the border.
The essential protectionist argument against the provision of guest-worker permits is that these workers take jobs away from Americans and reduce wages for everyone. There is, however, little factual basis for those arguments. As Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey was fond of noting, “Demagoguery beats data.” In other words, an emotional rant tends to be louder than a reasoned analysis.
With U.S. unemployment now at 4.8 percent (with most of these being the chronically unemployable), we need immigrant workers regardless of the ruckus that protectionists might raise. Indeed, most of the jobs performed by immigrant labor are low wage – but few U.S. citizens are lining up for those jobs. Low wages reduce the cost of products and services provided, thus reducing the cost of living for consumers. The alternative is plain to see: a lower stander of living and higher inflation.
David Card, professor of economics at UC Berkeley, compared wages nationally and found that high-school dropouts in cities with an abundance of immigrants performing low-wage jobs are no worse off.
Further, immigrant labor isn’t just a policy, as some have suggested, of creating poverty in America while alleviating it in Mexico and elsewhere. Greater prosperity in Mexico means greater security in the United States. NAFTA has helped, but that’s just the start. North America’s transportation infrastructure must be improved and extended farther south in Mexico, bringing the prosperity enjoyed under NAFTA in the north to more of the country’s citizens. Similar principles apply to our CAFTA partners.
The overall economic prosperity resulting from free-trade agreements, including job in-sourcing and outsourcing, creates hardships for some Americans while creating opportunity for others. This provides little solace to those whose financial security is threatened by free trade, but the fact is that most Americans benefit from free trade.
Once again, the economic protectionists are wrong – and European economies are proving it. In a recent speech to the European Parliament, British Prime Minister Tony Blair criticized Western European economies for their unwillingness to compete on a global level: “What type of social model is it that has 20 million unemployed in Europe? Productivity rates falling behind those of the USA? That, on any relative index of a modern economy – skills, R&D, patents, information technology – is going down, not up.”
Of course, there are other economic concerns, particularly the cost of social services for illegal aliens – which are enormous. The most costly of these social services are education, healthcare, housing and criminal incarceration. In 1994, California passed Proposition 187 to stop the hemorrhage of tax dollars for services to illegal aliens. Unfortunately, the federal courts struck down the law.
How does a nation that has institutionalized ethnic disunity integrate millions of immigrants?
In 1919, Theodore Roosevelt penned these words: “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”
Unfortunately, the Left has spent four decades hyphenating and disenfranchising every ethnic group it can in order to create special-interest constituencies. Challenging this disunity exposes one to substantial ridicule – claims of intolerance, bigotry and jingoism. Yet these subcultures, including immigrants, fail to become properly integrated into civil society.
We are now beginning to bear the social consequences of multicultural politicization in both American and immigrant minority populations. “Progressive” policies – bilingual education being the worst offender – have the effect of insulating and ultimately ghettoizing otherwise hardworking and well-intentioned immigrants. For fear of appearing “culturally imperialistic” by forcing newcomers to learn our language, history and laws, we’ve condemned them to permanent impoverishment. But then, such policies have always bred Democrat votes.
Immigration legislation in its final form must provide for the following: improved border security and enforcement; immediate detention and deportation of those crossing our borders illegally; deportation of any illegal alien convicted of a serious crime; a temporary-worker program (with reliable documentation a prerequisite) to meet the current demand for unskilled labor; penalties against employers who hire undocumented workers; no extension of amnesty and fast-track citizenship (new applicants to the back of the line); preservation of our tax-subsidized medical, educational and social services for American citizens and immigrants here legally; and Americanization of new legal immigrants.
We are also resolute in our rejection of birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens, and we support legislation affirming our Constitution’s rejection of same.
We strongly endorse free enterprise and free trade, including the regulated in-sourcing of low-skill labor through time-limited guest-worker permits. The registration process for these permits must be equally available not only to those already in the U.S., but to those still in their native homeland, in order to avoid a mass-influx of illegals hoping to register in the U.S.
As a nation, our biggest hurdles will be creating a guest worker program with functional status verification to register between five and ten million guest workers; providing the personnel for document authentication and enforcement for those workers; and establishing a secure border with Mexico.
However, will Congress demand enforcement at the border and in the workplace? The 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill enacted a ten-thousand dollar fine and up to a year in prison for hiring an illegal alien, but after three arrests, Congress directed the Justice Department not to prosecute infractions of this law.
As always, The Patriot advocates for the restoration of American principles and the adoption of those principles by all who seek to be called “American.”
Will we ever again be a nation committed to the principle of E pluribus unum? Perhaps. In 1956, the 84th Congress declared our official national motto to be “In God we trust.” This motto is especially instructive amid all the current political pandemonium, for only through God can we all truly become one.