It all has to start with properly understanding this country’s history. When it comes to the Statue of Liberty’s vision of an open door, the Golden Age was the 1920s. The U.S. threw open the door to Irish, Italian, Poles, all sorts of newcomers from south and central Europe. Like the Mexicans of today, these newcomers were seen as a threat to the social order. But they went on to become an intrical part of the American social fabric and no one can imagine the United States today without us. That part of my heritage—indeed, the heritage of the nation itself—puts me on the side of the pro-immigration forces.
But there’s more to the story that’s often overlooked. In 1965, The Golden Door Act radically increased the numbers of immigrants this country would take in. Whereas previous eras had seen an ebb and flow, combined with manageable numbers to allow for assimilation, now we were having huge volume that never let up. Furthermore, the new immigrants were coming into a different country. As the political and cultural Left seized control of key institutions in government, the media and education, the standards for assimilation were lowered. No longer was it presumed that newcomers would adapt themselves to the norms of their new country. Now it was considered the obligation of the United States to adjust itself to the newcomers. No longer did a new immigrant have to show the ability to support oneself—or have a host family. Learning English was considered an unfair burden. Having pride in the great traditions of American government and jurisprudence, firmly rooted in the West, was considered racist. We should note that embrace of institutions modeled on Great Britain was hardly a no-brainer for the Irish, but they did it.
As a result, the possibilities for peaceful assimilation decreased drastically. And today, to restore the norms of old gets one branded as anti-immigrant. In a bizarre twist of logic, if you argue for the same exact same rules that your own ancestors and family played and lived by, you are accused of betraying that exact same heritage. No one ever said American politics was sane. Furthermore, the distinction between legal and illegal entry is now considered non-existent, another completely baffling development.
This latter point simply has to be cleared up. Any legislative solution to today’s immigration situation has to start with firmly securing the border against illegal entry. We can argue about whether we want 1 million, 5 million, or 10 million newcomers every year. We can argue about where they should come from or what they should learn when they get here. But there should no dispute amongst reasonable men about obeying and enforcing the laws of the country.
In terms of volume, I want to see a restoration of the Golden Age. Let’s tone the numbers down to manageable levels. Some have argued for a time-out, to assimilate the huge volume we’ve seen in recent decades. I understand the logic, but am not ready to die on that hill. I think it’s more important just to move forward with a sustainable policy.
When we look at where the immigrants will come from, I don’t think any preference should be given one particular country or region. I have to part company with my old political mentor Pat Buchanan (well, he didn’t officially mentor me, but I followed him with great passion) on this one. The future immigrants are going to come from the south or from Africa or from the Pacific Rim. Western Europe isn’t producing enough people to populate itself, much less provide newcomers for us. And on a better plane, there’s no longer starvation in Ireland, political upheaval in Italy or crackdowns in Poland that create the conditions for people wanting to leave. All this is to the good. I further reject the notion that people with “marketable skills” should be given preference over the downtrodden. If there were ever a rejection of the American ideal, this is it. And that rejection has come just as prominently from pro-immigrant people in the business establishment. I understand the concerns good people—like those in the Buchanan movement—have over opening the doors to people of a completely different culture who are poor, but those concerns have been overcome in the past, and can be so again, as long as the immigrants are arriving to a healthy culture ready to absorb them.
It’s this latter point that’s really the problem. Elite liberals have caused tremendous damage by their denigration of the American heritage, primarily its tradition as an English-speaking nation and the notion that have created immense problems. The increased secularization and mocking of religious faith have created a cultural stagnation that new immigrants can help fix, just as the Irish gave new life to the city of Boston, suffocating under Brahmin rule and led by people with sticks of charcoal stuck up the wrong places. This is where the problem lies. Perhaps, to put in baseball terms, we can trade a few veteran liberal academics for some burgeoning minor league talent in another country, and start the cultural rebuilding that way.