Once upon a time we were a fledgling nation, with a population of just a few million people, with 3,200,000 square miles of mostly uninhabited land. We were desperate for people to help us settle this land, and our borders were open to anyone that wanted to come and work. People came, mostly from Ireland, Scotland, England, and Western Europe, looking for opportunity that they could not find in their homelands. Immigration was key to the success of the USA as a nation, and newcomers were embraced.
Immigration continued unabated throughout most of our history, and it had a positive effect on our development. Major cities were formed, which gave rise to heavy industry and a workforce that could support it. Immigration was the central reason for our rise as an industrial power, and it was immigration that eventually made us a superpower and the #1 economy in the world.
Let’s take a look at some immigration statistics:
That’s not to say that immigration was never an issue. There was a xenophobic reaction to the mass immigration of Irish, German, and Italian Catholics in the 19th Century. Native born citizens thought that these new additions would be ruled by the Pope, undermining the society that they had previously built. The Chinese brought an even more nativist policy, culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act passed by Congress in 1882.
Throughout most of our history, immigrants contributed to our society with their labor and their ambition. When they arrived they expected nothing more than the opportunity to succeed and that was all that they got. They were productive and did not put any burden on our government, and they did not expect to be entitled to anything except for what they could earn legitimately. Each group coming was expected to assimilate into our “melting pot” and that is what happened, with rich and colorful additions to our society in forms of arts and culture brought from their home countries. It was in this way that the “melting pot” worked, and it worked well, at least until we became a welfare state.
We now transfer more than 14% of our GDP to individuals. Part of this transfer now goes to immigrants, both legal and illegal. Many recent immigrants now do not assimilate, do not work, do not pay taxes, but collect benefits supplied by the taxpayers. We are now funding shadow cultures with taxpayer dollars, people who are here not to work hard for a better life, but those that believe somehow they are entitled to collect off of the largess of a country that they only marginally participate in.
Most efforts to actually control immigration were half-hearted throughout our history, with laws that were conflicting and sometimes downright idiotic. To this day we have not put together a comprehensive plan to protect our borders and to control the influx of immigrants. Because of our lack of focus on this issue, we find ourselves in an illegal immigrant invasion on our southern border, and a wavering polarized congress that is shirking their duty to address this problem with some sort of sensible legal solution. This problem, combined with being a welfare state that makes it attractive for immigrants to come without embracing the idea of assimilation, make it imperative that we push congress to do their job. We have to get this under control. If not eventually it could be the demise of our nation.
We are pressing congress to do their job, and today there will be an effort to vote for a solution in the House of Representatives. The bill that they are pressing will deal with border protection, DACA, and a sensible way to control immigration with a merit based system. Virtually every Republican in congress will vote yes on this bill, but it is doubtful that any Democrats will. Republicans have a majority in congress, but need at least a few Democrat votes to get the bill passed and on to the Senate. If this happens, it is certain that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will resist having any of his Democrat Senators show support for this bill.
Republican lawmakers see a need to control immigration because we are a welfare state, and we cannot let masses of under skilled uneducated people flood in for a free ride. We are now populated, and no longer need and unending flow of people to inhabit an unpopulated land. What we do need are skilled workers and seasonal laborers. Democrats, on the other hand, see the flood of uneducated masses as new democrat voters that will eventually tip the scales in their favor. They see our present broken system as a way to perpetuate their power ad infinitum. This is why we see this polarization, where the two competing parties have widely different interests in the control of immigration, and this is also why we may not see immigration reform for some time to come.
Right now we are focused on family separation at our borders. Illegal aliens are coming across with their children with the expectation that they can stay. Until yesterday with the Presidents Executive order, they were then separated from their children. With our zero tolerance policy, now adults are immediately arrested for breaking the law, and if they do not agree to go back to their homeland, they are incarcerated with their children until a judgement is made on their eligibility for amnesty. If granted they can stay and are relocated to a place in our mainland. If not, they will be sent home. It is a messy program that needs to be stopped, but without the support of congress, this broken system will remain in place. The only solution is for congress to do their job, and that seems to be a very tall order in today’s political climate.