“We are a Nation of immigrants” mumbo-jumbo
Posted by Ann Corcoran on May 8, 2012
Update and correction! It was brought to my attention last evening by an observant reader that Mr. Hunter’s testimony to the State Department below was taken in part from a 2006 article in Frontpage Magazine, here. The author is Lawrence Auster whose thoughtful writing on the issue of immigration has been widely published. You may wish to read his blog, View from the Right, here. I sincerely apologize to Mr. Auster for this rookie editor’s error.
As I said the other day, I am going to have days and weeks of material from the US State Department meeting last week on the Refugee Program.
Editor’s note to citizens and taxpayers: The US State Department is not going to release the testimony to you although all of the testimony we received last week was available to anyone in the public who made the trek to that 11th floor obscure meeting room in Arlington, VA. When I get a few minutes I’ll make links for all the files we have from that meeting.
Here is one segment of testimony from Edward Hunter (US Voices on Immigration Reform) where he discusses the sacred cows and pat little phrases and slogans the immigration industry pushes on the public. How many times has someone tried to shut you up with this one—We are a Nation of immigrants!—as if that statement alone justifies wide open borders.
This—the veritable “king” of open-borders, globalist, mass immigration, refugee resettlement clichés—seems at first glance to be an indisputable statement, in the sense that all Americans, even including the American Indians, are either immigrants themselves or descendants of people who came here from other places. Given the above, it would be more accurate to say that we are “a nation of people descended from immigrants.” But such a mundane statement would fail to convey the thrilling idea conjured up by the phrase “nation of immigrants”—the idea that all of us, whether or not we are literally immigrants, are somehow “spiritually” immigrants, in the sense that the immigrant experience defines our character as Americans.
This friendly-sounding, inclusive sentiment—like so many others of its kind—turns out to be profoundly exclusive. For one thing, it implies that anyone who is not an immigrant, or who does not identify with immigration as a key aspect of his own being, is not a “real” American. It also suggests that newly arrived immigrants are more American than people whose ancestors have been here for generations. The public television essayist Richard Rodriguez spelled out these assumptions when he declared, in his enervated, ominous tone: “Those of us who live in this country are not the point of America. The newcomers are the point of America.”
In reality, we are not—even in a figurative sense—a nation of immigrants or even a nation of descendants of immigrants. As Chilton Williamson pointed out in The Immigration Mystique, the 80,000 mostly English and Scots-Irish settlers of colonial times, the ancestors of America’s historic Anglo-Saxon majority, had not transplanted themselves from one nation to another (which is what defines immigration), but from Britain and its territories to British colonies. They were not immigrants, but colonists. The immigrants of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries came to an American nation that had already been formed by those colonists and their descendants. Therefore to call America “a nation of immigrants” is to suggest that America, prior to the late nineteenth century wave of European immigration, was not America. It is to imply that George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant (descended from the original colonists) were not “real” Americans, but those that have entered most recently and who in many ways are bringing cultures that are inimical to that original American identity are.
Apart from its politically correct function of diminishing the Americans of the pre-Ellis Island period and their descendants, the “nation of immigrants” motto is meaningless in practical terms. Except for open-borders ideologues, everyone knows we must have some limits on immigration. The statement, “we are a nation of immigrants,” gives us no guidance on what those limits should be. Two hundred thousand immigrants per year? Two million? Why not twenty million—since we’re a nation of immigrants? The slogan also doesn’t tell us, once we have decided on overall numbers, what the criterion of selection shall be among the people who want to come here. Do we choose on the basis of family ties to recent immigrants? Language? Income? Nationality? Race? Victim status? First come first served? The “nation of immigrants” slogan cannot help us choose among these criteria because it doesn’t state any good that is to be achieved by immigration. It simply produces a blind emotional bias in favor of more immigration rather than less, making rational discussion of the issue impossible.
To see the uselessness of the “nation of immigrants” formula as a source of political guidance, imagine what the British would have said if they had adopted it in 1940 when they were facing an imminent invasion by Hitler’s Germany. “Look, old man, we’re a nation of immigrants/invaders. First the Celts took the land from the Neolithic peoples, then the Anglo-Saxons conquered and drove out the Celts, then the Normans invaded and subjugated the Anglo-Saxons. In between there were Danish invaders and settlers and Viking marauders as well. Since we ourselves are descended from invaders, who are we to oppose yet another invasion of this island? Being invaded by Germanic barbarians is our national tradition!”
Since every nation could be called a nation of immigrants (or a nation of invaders) if you go back far enough, consistent application of the principle that a nation of immigrants must be open to all future immigrants would require every country on earth to open its borders to whoever wanted to come. But only the United States and, to a lesser extent, a handful of other Western nations, are said to have this obligation. The rule of openness to immigrants turns out to be a double standard, aimed solely at America and the West.
It is also blatantly unfair to make the factoid that “we are all descended from immigrants” our sole guide to national policy, when there are so many other important and true facts about America that could also serve as guides. For example, throughout its history the United States has been a member of Western civilization—in religion overwhelmingly Christian, in race (until the post-1965 immigration) overwhelmingly white, in language English. Why shouldn’t those little historical facts be at least as important in determining our immigration policy as the pseudo-fact that we’re all “descended from immigrants?” But immigrant advocates are incapable of debating such questions, because there is no rational benefit for America that they seek through open immigration. Their aim is not to strengthen and preserve America, but to transform it into something else.
This post and all posts on the State Department meeting are filed in a new category entitled, “Testimony for 5/1/2012 State Dept. meeting” here.
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