Have Immigrants Made America Great?
Scripps-Howard News Service 5.01.02
At last a topic, I thought, for which my credentials are impeccable.
But no. The great debate about immigration is going the way of our
other great debates - emotions trump facts, logic, and the law.
The following conversation occurred at a week-end get-together,
one of many across America where - it may be safely assumed - similar
exchanges take place.
"There is this wonderful Brazilian woman I met in New York,"
exclaimed the lady who had just shown us the multi-million dollar
art collection in her ground-floor maisonette. "She was there
illegally and had to leave. After returning to Brazil, she heard
of an organization constantly ferrying human cargo into the United
States from Peru. She went to Peru but didn't make the grade. Then
she heard of some Mexicans doing it, shot up to the border and,
in a matter of weeks, she was back in New York. She is so happy
to be in America! She loves it here. Isn't that a wonderful story?"
With that, the lady reached for another smoked salmon canapé.
"And the fact that she continues to break the law in order
to be here does not bother you at all?" I found myself asking.
What followed was a lecture by the lady, seconded by a well-educated
gentlemen of the Left, about all the jobs "Americans are no
longer prepared to do," and how "our national survival
depends on illegal immigrants."
Many decent people who are informed by their emotions think of
the welfare state, and all its consequences, as the kind of approach
decent people devise in order to assist the less fortunate. Would
they be willing to engage their brains for an occasional discussion
of reality? Who knows.
Given what we read every day about young people who join gangs
and peddle dope "because they have no prospects," it should
be obvious that the welfare state causes one to rely on the money
others have earned, as opposed to performing services for which
society is prepared to pay. That's Step One. Step Two: the excuse
to tolerate the presence of lawbreakers so that "the jobs get
done." Step Three: the lawbreakers demand welfare benefits
so that they, too, can participate in the fruits of other people's
labor. Step Four: the welfare supporters enact laws that attract
illegal immigrants by offering a) no penalty, even reward, for illegal
entry and b) welfare benefits for lawbreakers.
But all that is but one aspect of the debate about immigration.
Another is whether immigrants have made America great?
Without a doubt, everyone who has come here to work hard, and to
comprehend, preserve, protect and defend our Constitution has contributed
to America's success.
But America's greatness was established between 1776 and 1791 by
that unique group of men we know as the Founding Fathers. After
that, there was nothing to add, only to take away.
Immigrants came here, and were able to thrive here, because the
Founders established a supreme law that was fair; a political structure
that ensured peaceful transition of power; and an economic model
that gave everyone a chance.
Every time we countenance breaking the law, we diminish the opportunity
for the legitimate immigrants of the future to be self-reliant.
Most immigrants arrive from lawless countries. They need to be motivated
to live under the law. They need to be encouraged to work toward
self-reliance under the law. They need to realize that the rule
of law and self-reliance are inseparable in the long run.
Self-government was the great design of the Founders. But without
self-reliance, there is no self-government.
And self-reliance requires a legal framework that guarantees peaceful
enjoyment of the fruits of one's labor. The role of government is
to enforce the laws upon which that guarantee rests. What kind of
example is being set by Americans who break the law every time they
pay a newcomer?
Among laws, the ones governing the admission of newcomers to the
large community we call nation is of exceptional importance. What
happens when it breaks down, we all found out on September 11, 2001.
Meanwhile, false prophets are citing the telephone, rocket science,
or the Salk serum - contributions by immigrants that may be one
in ten million - in order to promote an essentially open border
Our borders cannot remain open if we wish this nation to survive.
Doors may be opened for those to whom we extend our proper welcome.
That welcome is a contract. In return for the opportunity to live
in America, newcomers must enter legally, arrive ready to offer
their undivided allegiance to America - its principles, its laws
- and to serve the more perfect union the Founding Fathers devoted
their lives to create.