The current population of the United States is 307 million people. Of that number, about 40 million are legal immigrants, and perhaps 12 million are illegal aliens. That makes about 13% of our population naturalized citizens. Include the illegals and you have 16%. These percentages are not all that much different from other industrialized nations.
Is that taking the “nation of immigrants” canard too literally? Is it really supposed to mean that most of us are only a generation or two removed from immigrants? That sounds like another dose of the weary leftist philosophy that holds people accountable for the deeds of their ancestors. It’s reminiscent of the way our more excitable academics insist that we’re all descended from slave owners, or slaves. Why should we “define ourselves” based on where our grandparents were born?
Should we reflect on how America was founded by immigrants, over two centuries ago? But that’s not true. Most of our Founders were born on American soil. Only nine of the delegates to the first Constitutional Convention were immigrants.
The people who came before them were colonists, not immigrants. They certainly did not “immigrate” into American Indian society, and they rather pointedly did not regard themselves as a “nation of immigrants” when they declared their independence from the crowns that ruled their ancestors. There are organizations in the modern United States that openly encourage those who cross our border illegally to think of themselves as “colonists,” too.
What is “immigration,” anyway? Is it merely the physical act of crossing a border? In that case, England was a nation of immigrants during the , and Asians still remember the waves of vigorous Mongol immigration that took place in the 13th century. Like all great affairs of free men, true immigration is an act of mutual consent, and mutual responsibility.
We are unquestionably a nation that has welcomed many immigrants. The American spirit burns bright when a new citizen recites the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time. Those who drag out the “nation of immigrants” chestnut are not seeking to congratulate Americans for their hospitality. On the contrary, they want us to see ourselves as a vast flock of migratory birds that just happened to settle on this lovely piece of ground, and have no right to set conditions for anyone who wishes to roost in the same spot. We’re supposed to feel like hypocrites for limiting the number of new citizens we accept, or making them fill out applications for citizenship and wait for a response. We’re definitely not supposed to regard the people who did fill out applications as the true “immigrants.”
Instead of flagellating ourselves for daring to envision borders around American territory, we should be working on ways to process those applications for citizenship more quickly. The President mentioned our “outdated system of legal immigration” in his El Paso speech, and he was right about that.
When the President went on to set up another of his infamous false choices, between open borders laced with amnesty and a moat full of alligators, he rendered an unforgivable insult to the millions of Americans – both native-born and naturalized – who take the concept of citizenship seriously. Citizenship implies the existence of non-citizens, and therefore borders. The ideas come as a set.
America is a nation with immigrants. We add a million of them every year. We are proud of them, and they are proud to be Americans. There is a difference between immigrants and aliens. It’s possible for an alien to become an immigrant. The process is currently more difficult than it should be. It will never be automatic. That’s why we have a border. We don’t need any more excuses for the President’s failure to do his duty in securing it, fantasies that he took care of it while we weren’t paying attention, insults directed at those who expect him to do his duty, poetic illusions, or moralistic lectures about why one of our borders shouldn’t exist.