US history cluttered with migration ugliness

Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018|2 a.m.

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In 1790, the finest mind in the First Congress, and of his generation, dealt with in your house of Representatives the immigration concern: “It is no doubt really preferable that we must hold out as lots of incentives as possible for the worthy part of humanity to come and settle amongst us.” Perhaps today’s 115th Congress will resume the Sisyphean job of continuing one of America’s oldest disputes, where James Madison was an early participant: By exactly what requirements should we decide who is worthy to come among us?

The antecedents of the pronouns “we” and “us” consist of the practically 80 million who are either immigrants– not leaving out the more than 11 million undocumented ones—- or their children. They might be entertained to discover that in the only full-length book Thomas Jefferson composed, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he fretted that a lot of immigrants may be coming from Europe with monarchical concepts “imbibed in their early youth,” ideas that might turn America into “a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass.”

A century later on, Theodore Roosevelt, who disliked “milk-and-water cosmopolitanism,” saw virtue emerging from struggles in between the “Anglo-Saxon” race and exactly what Roosevelt’s buddy and soulmate Rudyard Kipling called “lesser types without the law.” TR, who worried that the United States was becoming a “polyglot boarding home,” supported America’s very first considerable legislation limiting immigration, passed to omit Chinese, because he thought Chinese workers would depress American earnings, and because he believed they would be “crippling to the white race.”

In 1902, in the last volume of teacher Woodrow Wilson’s widely-read book “A History of the American People,” he contrasted “the durable stocks of the north of Europe”– e.g., Norwegians– with southern and eastern Europeans who had “neither ability nor energy nor any effort of fast intelligence.” U.S. Army information collected during World War I mobilization showed, inning accordance with a Princeton psychologist, “the intellectual superiority of our Nordic group over the Mediterranean, Alpine and Negro groups.” Richard T. Ely, a leading progressive economist, invested the majority of his academic career at the University of Wisconsin, however first taught at Johns Hopkins, where among his students was Woodrow Wilson. Ely commemorated the Army information for allowing the country to inventory its human stock just as it does its livestock. In 1924, Congress legislated serious migration limitations, which excluded immigrants from an “Asiatic Barred Zone.”

For more on this unsavory topic, check out “Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Period,” by Princeton economic expert Thomas C. Leonard. And “One Nation Uncertain” by Peter H. Schuck, professor emeritus at Yale Law School, who writes: “In what might be the cruelest single action in our migration history, Congress defeated an expense in 1939 to save 20,000 kids from Nazi Germany in spite of American families’ eagerness to sponsor them — on the ground that the children would exceed Germany’s quota!”

The next phase of America’s immigration argument, like the previous one, will produce the most heat about border security and whether those who are here illegally should stay. The heat will be disproportionate.

The border was unimportant to the 42 percent of illegal immigrants who entered the United States, mostly at airports, with legitimate visas that they then overstayed. Spending on border security quadrupled in the 1990s, then tripled in the next years. Now that net migration of Mexicans has been unfavorable for 10 years, Americans eager to develop a wall needs to not develop it on the 1,984-mile U.S.-Mexico border but on the 541-mile Mexico-Guatemala border.

Fifty-eight percent of the more than 11 million– below 12.2 million in 2007– who are here unlawfully have actually been here a minimum of 10 years; 31 percent are house owners; 33 percent have children who, having been born here, are residents. The country would recoil from the police determines that would be essential to extract these people from the communities into the fabric which their lives are woven. They are not going home; they are home.

After 9/11, attitudes about migration became entangled with policies about terrorism. So, as The Economic expert kept in mind, “a mass murder dedicated by mostly Saudi terrorists resulted in a nearly unlimited amount of loan being made available for the deportation of Mexican house-painters.” This month, U.S. Migration and Customs Enforcement representatives raided 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 states, making 21 arrests, approximately one for every single 4.5 shops. Rome was not built in a day and it would be unreasonable to anticipate the federal government to ensure, in one fell swoop, that just American citizens will hold jobs giving Slurpees and Big Gulps.

George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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