On the boats and on the planes
They’re coming to America
Never looking back again,
They’re coming to America
…. Neil Diamond
Immigation is a hot-potato issue in the United States today. Pro or con, it seems everyone has an opinion, and the sides are often far apart. This is the first of a series attempting to look at the issue in some depth.
We’re a nation of immigants, we’ve all heard that many times. True enough, all of our ancestors came from somewhere else, including the “native Americans”. Their ancestors probably came from somewhere in Asia across a land bridge thousands of years ago. So to set the record straight, none of us, truly none of us has absolute roots in the good old U S of A.
The Spanish, French, and English were the first to arrive in the 1500’s, followed by settlers from just about every European country, and thousands of Africans brought here as slaves.
Fundamentally, there were no U.S. immigration laws until 1882, and the first group restricted from entering the country were the Chinese. By 1892, the government has set up Ellis Island, the first Federal immigration station. The first immigrant to be processed there was Annie Moore, a teenager from Ireland.
Early migrations of people were small, an estimated 20,000 Puritans in New England, for example. As time went along the numbers grew. It is estimated that about 600,000 African slaves were brought in during the early-mid 1800’s. By the beginning of the twentieth century, over four million Irish and five million Germans had landed on America’s shores.
By the mid 1800’s there were a significant number of native-born Americans, who often resented new foreigners arriving. Descrimination was common. But they kept coming anyway. By 1920, more than four million Italians and two million Jews had arrived. The peak year was 1907, when over 1.3 million people arrived.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was the first major law to place restrictions on immigration. Also known as known as the McCarran-Walter Act, the act was used to block “undesirables” such as Communists from entering the country.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished a national origins formula which allocated admission to the US based on country. The new system focused on an immigant’s skills and/or relationship with an American citizen as criteria for admission. Numerical restrictions were set at 170,000 new immigrants per year.
Today the worldwide limit for legal immigation into the United States is set at 675,000 per year. Additional immigrants classified as refugees can also be permitted by Congress and the President. Of this number, 480,000 entries are restricted to family relationship: the person entering must have some certain type of relationship to an American citizen. Congress, however, has played with this number, and it often exceeds 480,000. The remaining visas are for persons with certain desirable skills, such as computer programming skills. These visas also have been abused, which will be discussed later.
An unlimited number of immediate relatives, spouses, minor children, and parents are permitted. We will look at this issue closer when we discuss the so-called “anchor-babies”.
Illegal immigation is a flashpoint today, and likely will be a major issue during the 2016 Presidental campaign. It’s an emotional hot potato. Before going forward, however, let’s look at legal immigation.
A person who applies for legal immigration and is approved is issued the famous “green card”, which is simply a visa for permanent residence. The person can move forward eventually toward naturalization, and become a citizen. Until then, they are a legal “resident alien”. Since they are here legally, those who come in illegally are “illegal aliens”. Today it is considered politically incorrect to use this term, but a non-citizen is an alien, and since they are not here legally, they are “illegal”. So I’ll use that term. Anyone who has a problem with that can stop reading now.
Entering the United States illegally the first time is a misdemeanor, the second time it is a felony. Like it or not, those here illegally have broken the law. So what about the law? Are immigration laws good or bad, and why do they exist?
Every country has its own immigration policies and for its own reasons. For the most part, it seems that developed countries created limits on immigration to avoid waves of “undesirables”. These “undesirables” may be poor, uneducated, low-skilled, or in poor health. In other cases restrictions might be aimed at religious or political affiliations. The laws vary and frequently change with the changing times. Some countries, such as Italy, Switzerland, Australia, and Japan have very stict immigation laws.
Australia has even made a video for those who might try to enter the country illegally:
Clearly, some countries have made it very difficult to enter. The United States, however, seems to have gone in the opposite direction.
To be fair, however, there is little resemblence between Australia and the United States. Australia is an island continent, completely surrounded by water. The only way anyone can enter Australia is by sea or by flying.
The US border with Canada is 5,525 miles long, and the border with Mexico is 1,953 miles long. That’s 7,478 miles of border, much of it unguarded. To look at a comparison, the distance from Maine to Florida is 1,597 miles, less than the length of the Mexican border.
U.S Customs and Border Protection has about 21,000 Border Patrol agents. These agents are responsible for not only policing the Canadian and Mexican borders, but also for about 2000 miles of coastal waters around Florida and Puerto Rico. Looking at 21,000 agents covering 9478 miles of border and waterway, we immediately see a problem. That’s about two agents per mile; and if we divide that into 3 eight-hour shifts, that’s far less than one agent per mile. We understand that looking at it that way may be unfair, but it does seem pretty clear that the US has no where near the number of agents needed to effectively patrol the border. Even considering high tech cameras and arial surveilance, it’s obvious that it’s pretty easy to get into the United States illegally.
There are an estimated 11.3 million illegal aliens in the United States. About half of these aliens are from Mexico. The rest come from Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia. There is also an increase of illegal immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. These immigrants make up about 5.1% of the American workforce (8.1 million people) and their children are about seven percent of the K-12 school population.
During World War II, there was a labor shortage in the United States. The US Government entered into an agreement with Mexico to allow thousands of Mexican “braceros” (manual laborers) into the US to work in agriculture and the railroad system. This became a form of “open border” system for migrant Mexican workers coming into the US to work. While the program was supposed to end after the War, it continued until 1964 when it was ended due to objections from US labor (union) officials.
The notion that immigation laws are “flexible” becomes part of the problem. We welcomed Mexican laborers for twenty years, and then changed the policy. Today, it seems, we lay out that same welcome mat for immigrant farm workers or hotel workers, but do it without formal agreement, making it illegal. This “wink and a nod” approach by the government only serves to add to the chaos that is the current immigration problem.
Assimilation versus immigration
America was not created nor settled by immigrants. It was created and settled and prospered by those who came to this country from other places and became Americans, which is something vastly different.
For many years people came from all around the world with the specific purpose of becoming an American citizen. This was the “melting pot”, people coming from many countries and becoming one people. You were not Italian or German or Irish, you were an American. You could be proud of your heritage and background, but you were an American first and always.
Today, this is not the case. Too many immigrants coming here want to retain their “status” as Mexicans, or Guatamalans or Pakastani’s. They don’t really want to become citizens except for some benefits they might receive. They wish to be of their country and culture, but live in the United States. The notion of “diversity” has become something it never was before in this country and conceivably has dire consequences.
It’s not working, and it never will. Instead of immigrants coming here and assimilating into the American culture, some want America to kowtow to their needs, be it language, customs or accomodations.
Government is now expected to be multi-lingual, to accomodate those who do not speak English, and perhaps have no desire to learn. School districts, for example, must pay significant monies for translators so they can send home letters to parents in their language, something unheard of decades ago.
America is not multi-cultural. It is made up of people who come from many different cultures and allowed them to be subsumed into American culture. The strength of the country has always been a common language, common traditions, and common beliefs. People maintained their own cultures in private, but in the public square, they were Americans and nothing else. Changing this changes the culture and there is nothing good to come from it.
Next: Current immigation policies in the US and around the world. — The risks and dangers of mass migration versus strict immigation policy. — Immigration as an issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign.