If you have been paying attention to the news the past two weeks, immigration has dominated the cycle. Trump is now a Nazi again and those who support anti-immigration measures are evil incarnate. More importantly, they are un-American and racist.
You would think that Americans since time immemorial have welcomed every group with open arms who arrived on the shores of North America, that somehow Trump and his supporters invented anti-immigration in the last decade, and that no American of worth has ever supported an anti-immigration position.
I guess if you count George Washington, John Adams, and Patrick Henry as real American losers, then you would be correct. Or how about Grover Cleveland?
All of these American historical lightweights wanted to restrict immigration or at least thought it wasn’t a bad idea to do so.
We know there were Americans who supported the opposite position, particularly in the founding period, Thomas Jefferson foremost among them.
Now, as then, immigration comes down to one thing: power.
The Federalists feared the impact of French and Irish immigrants on elections so they sought to restrict immigration. For those that insist this was “racism,” last time I checked most of these people were white Europeans. Religion is not a race.
Jefferson insisted immigration was a State issue, and this is an interesting constitutional question. But like his Federalist counterparts, Jefferson knew that these immigrants would vote for his faction, and thus allowing them into the United States earned political points.
Cleveland certainly feared Chinese immigration, not because of race, but because, as he said, he thought they were “incapable of assimilation.” In other words, he wasn’t sure–because of concrete examples–that the Chinese would adopt Anglo-American principles of government and society. Everyone in the founding generation thought this was essential, but that is not even discussed anymore.
Why? Because anti-immigration is racist and un-American. At least that’s what Nancy Pelosi and Rachel Maddow say. We know how trustworthy they are.
I discuss all of this in Episode 164 of The Brion McClanahan Show.
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