More on Immigration

I have posted this as a follow up to my previous post . It is the executive summary of a large piece by Mr. Gonzalez that you can find at the American think tank , ‘The Heritage Foundation ‘ website . The title is as given below.

Patriotic Assimilation Is an Indispensable Condition in a Land of Immigrants

By Mike Gonzalez

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Gonzalez
Senior Fellow
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

Executive Summary

Patriotic assimilation is the bond that allows America to be a nation of immigrants. Without it, America either ceases to be a nation, becoming instead a hodgepodge of groups—or it becomes a nation that can no longer welcome immigrants. It cannot be both a unified nation and a place that welcomes immigrants without patriotic assimilation.

Over the past few decades, however, America has drifted away from assimilating immigrants. Elites—in the government, the culture, and the academy—have led a push toward multiculturalism, which emphasizes group differences. This transformation has taken place with little input from rank-and-file Americans, who overwhelmingly support assimilation. As Ronald Reagan worried just as it was first getting underway, this tectonic shift that “divides us into minority groups” was initiated by political opportunists “to create voting blocs.” Because presidential elections are times of national conversation, candidates of both parties are now uniquely placed to give the nation the debate on assimilation it has never had. For this, we need a thorough historical understanding of how the United States has dealt with both immigration and ethnic diversity for centuries.

Immigrants from Ireland and Germany began to settle among the original English colonists in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania almost from the start, altering the political outlook of the colonies. Diversity also came through the acquisition of territory. With the addition of New Amsterdam in 1664—later renamed New York—the colonies gained a polyglot city in whose streets 18 languages were spoken.

All immigrants faced prejudice and segregation at times. Two early groups, the Germans and the Northern Irish, particularly faced opposition. Benjamin Franklin said of the first, “Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements?” As for the Northern Irish, in 1720, Boston passed an ordinance that directed “certain families recently arriving from Ireland to move off.” The immigrants overcame such adversity on their own. The Founders would have found repugnant the idea of intervening by giving groups special privileges or benefits.

The Founders worried that diversity could get in the way of national unity. Alexander Hamilton wrote that “the safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits.” Immigrants were welcome, but in the hope that, as Washington put it, they “get assimilated to our customs, measures, and laws: in a word, soon become one people.” Adherence to the universal principles of equality, liberty, and limited government contained in the founding documents, as well as to virtues that made a constitutional republic viable—like frugality, industry, and moderation—would bind Americans together regardless of origin.

Because these principles could not be expected to take root by themselves, a system of so-called Common Schools rose in the early 19th century to educate and assimilate the children of immigrants. Early visitors like Alexis de Tocqueville noted that “in the United States, the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to the support of a democratic republic.”

Immigrants from Northern Europe, who started arriving in large numbers in the 1840s, benefited greatly from these schools. Abraham Lincoln, a great believer in assimilation who fought anti-immigrant forces in the mid-1800s, said it was belief in the sentiments and principles of the Founding that made immigrants Americans. By the 1880s, German-born Wisconsin congressman Richard Guenther was telling crowds, “We are no longer Germans; we are Americans.”

In the 1890s the country experienced a rise in immigration from different sources. Italians, Slavs, Jews, Hungarians, Greeks, Armenians, Lebanese, and others began to enter the country through Ellis Island. They encountered renewed opposition from nativists who said the new arrivals could never be Americanized. Immigrants from Asia fared worse. So-called transnationalists rose, too, to disparage assimilation—in their case because they disdained America and sought instead “a federation of cultures.”

Assimilationist forces stepped in again, this time with such men as Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, speaking in Boston on July 4, 1915, said that immigrants “must be brought into complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations and cooperate with us for their attainment.”

The assimilationist philosophy of Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Brandeis remained central to the country for most of the 20th century, until it began to break down in the 1970s. For the past 40 years, America’s new political, educational, corporate, and cultural elites have progressively pushed the country in the opposite direction. This new transnationalism—multiculturalism—is an attempt to make ethnic differences permanent by rewarding separate identities and group attachment with benefits, thus deterring national unity by requiring Americans to remain sorted into separate ethnic categories.

This new arrangement, dubbed by the historian David A. Hollinger “the ethno-racial pentagon,” divided the country into whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. This unheard-of division of America into official groups was taking place just as the country was about to absorb the biggest wave of immigrants since the Ellis Islanders of 1890–1924. Changes in immigration law in the mid-1960s ended restrictionist policies and led to the next surge in immigration, this time largely from Latin America and Asia. As they arrived, new immigrants discovered they would be considered “minorities,” conceptually precluding from the start their full assimilation into the larger society.

As Nathan Glazer put it in 1988, “We had seen many groups become part of the United States through immigration, and we had seen each in turn overcoming some degree of discrimination to become integrated into American society. This process did not seem to need the active involvement of government, determining the proper degree of participation of each group in employment and education.”

Special treatment for specific groups by the federal bureaucracy implies betrayal and rejection of the principles espoused by every American leader from Washington through Reagan. This approach has contaminated our schools, preventing them from teaching civic principles and reverence for the nation—including lessons on how those principles have helped leaders repair the nation’s faults. The new approach also threatens the cherished American principle of equal treatment under the law.

This radical reordering was a top-down effort, not a response to a demand from below. PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Internet entrepreneur David O. Sacks, among others, call multiculturalism a “word game” that hides a “comprehensive and detailed worldview” that is used by American leftists to introduce radical policy ideas when “an honest discussion would not lead to results that fit the desired agenda.” As John Skrentny described it, “[I]t is striking that the civil-rights administrators—without any public debate, data, or legal basis—decided on an ethnoracial standard for victimhood and discrimination that officially divided the country into oppressed (blacks, Latinos, Native American, Asian Americans) and oppressors (all white non-Latinos).”

America owes itself an open, honest debate on multiculturalism and assimilation. Presidential candidates should ask the following five questions: (1) Why does the government need to divide Americans into demographic categories based on racialist thinking? (2) Can any society survive a sustained denigration of its history and principles through indoctrination in schools and universities? (3) Why should we continue to let the teachers unions block meaningful school-choice reform which would help to liberate immigrants from factors that threaten to relegate them to a permanent subordinate class? (4) Should the country strengthen citizenship requirements in order to make naturalization truly transformative? (5) Should the government continue policies that harm family formation and church participation, knowing that families and churches have historically been incubators of Americanization?

Candidates should not be intimidated. The vast majority of Americans support Americanization. Patriotic assimilation is a liberating, welcoming action, a proposition only a nation like America can confidently offer those born overseas. Previous waves of immigrants have found the correct balance between keeping their traditions and adopting America’s virtues, between pride in their ancestry and love of their new country. The new wave of immigrants can do the same.

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