With his thick Austrian accent, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped in his commencement address at Emory University this past week: "I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend. But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me."
It seems that the whole country is taking sides in the battle over the border in Arizona. Yet it truly remains the tip of the iceberg of our immigration troubles. Spurred on by the national debate, at least 10 other states are seeking to enact tougher immigration laws.
Now more than ever, we must protect our borders and sovereignty, by providing genuine solutions to the dangers of American boundary fluidity. With estimates showing that by 2060 America will add 167 million people (37 million immigrants today will multiply into 105 million then), it is imperative for us to do more to solve this crisis. Now is the time to beat the doors of change and save the boundaries and future of America.
But the federal government has failed miserably to produce a viable solution to the illegal immigration crisis. Amnesty is not the answer. And immigration laws aren’t effective if we continue to dodge or ignore them. Furthermore, globalization efforts have only confused security matters, further endangering our borders and national identity — our sovereignty. And the question that keeps coming to my mind is: How is it that we can secure borders in the Middle East but can’t secure our own?
From America’s birth, our Founders struggled, too, with international enemies and border troubles, from the sea of Tripoli to the western frontier. While welcoming the poor, downtrodden and persecuted from every country, they also had to protect the sacred soil they called home from unwanted intruders.
America’s Founders also were concerned with properly assimilating immigrants so that their presence would be positive upon the culture. George Washington wrote, "By an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people." Thomas Jefferson, hailed as one of the most inclusive among the Founders, worried that some immigrants would leave more restrictive governments and not be able to handle American freedoms, leading to cultural corruption and "an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty.
These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their number, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass." And Alexander Hamilton insisted that "the safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of citizens from foreign bias and prejudice; and on the love of country, which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education, and family."
According to the Declaration of Independence, "obstructing the Laws for the Naturalization of Foreigners" was one of the objections leveled against Britain that warranted the American colonists’ seceding. Yet even the Founders themselves believed that a total open-door policy for immigrants would only lead to complete community and cultural chaos.
We are discussing and debating new ways to resolve the social crisis we call illegal immigration, but our Founders pointed the way more than 200 years ago. Like enrolling in an Ivy League school, American citizenship was considered and promoted by them as a high honor. James Madison shared the collective sentiment back then when he stated, "I do not wish that any man should acquire the privilege, but such as would be a real addition to the wealth or strength of the United States." Hence, they processed applicants and selected only the ones who would contribute to the building up and advancement of their grand experiment called America.
Therefore, our Founders enforced four basic requirements for "enrollment and acceptance" into American citizenry. We still utilize them (at least in policy) to this day, but we desperately need to enforce them. The Heritage Foundation summarizes: "Key criteria for citizenship of the Naturalization Act of 1795 remain part of American law. These include (1) five years of (lawful) residence within the United States; (2) a ‘good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States’; (3) the taking of a formal oath to support the Constitution and to renounce any foreign allegiance; and (4) the renunciation of any hereditary titles."
Just think if such immigration tenets were taught in schools such as Live Oak High School, in Northern California, where kids are confused about allegiances to flags and countries. And just think if the federal government actually enforced such tenets! Arizona and the 10 other states following suit wouldn’t even need to go out on a limb and create their own immigration laws as states did prior to our Constitution. If we held citizenship in the same high esteem as our Founders and simply enforced the laws we already have, we wouldn’t be in this illegal immigration pickle today.
Next week, Chuck will lay out his plan, drawing inspiration from our Founders, for dealing with the 12 million-plus illegal immigrants in our country today.