Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What is the "originalist" constitutional view on immigration?

Honoring Independence Day, Quorum Report links to a copy of the Declaration of Independence and encourages everyone to re-read it, so I did. And it surprised me to be reminded that one of their complaints against King George was that he was:
obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither
Until after the Civil War, authority to restrict immigration was considered a state's right, but no state ever implemented such restrictions. The first US immigration law was passed in 1875 to limit the entrance of Chinese "coolies" to California, but under the views of those who created the Constitution that was a usurpation of a state's right by the federal system.

The Declaration of Independence reminds us that for the Founding Fathers, the King's effort to RESTRICT immigration was considered part of the justification for open, armed revolt. It's amazing how much the terms of debate have changed on this topic. Where are all the originalist constitutional scholars when you need them?

Happy 4th, everybody.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with legal immigration. Both of my grandparents legally immigrated to the United States in the 1890s. My grandmother was a resident alien and my grandfather received his U.S. Citizenship in 1900. Their children learned to speak English as did my grandfather and grandmother. They did not expect the people of the United States to accommodate their ethnic origins; they became Americans and molded themselves and their children in the life style of the United States. They did not feel the United States government owned them anything; it was a great privilege to be allowed entry into their new country.
I do not believe you should be allowed in the United States if you condone the overthrow of our government. United States citizens should not be expected to accommodate you and your family in any manner, it is a privilege to be here. Learn our language and customs to become one of us. If your language and customs are so dear to you that you do not wish to change then you should not consider immigrating to the United States. If your religion sees the United States as the Great Satan and you are a devout member of that religion you should not be in the United States. Cultural diversity is a blueprint for the destruction of the United States. A house divided against itself cannot stand applies to cultural diversity. All successful enterprises are made from united and likeminded groups.
Many people from Mexico feel that the South West United States was stolen from Mexico and are flooding in to reclaim the area. Why should we have a different immigration law than Mexico? If you illegally enter Mexico you will go to jail. You have no right to free medical care or other privileges if you illegally enter Mexico. Why it is the United States should be held to a higher standard than our neighbors south of the border? In many countries if you illegally enter their country and you give birth to a child it is not a citizen of that country because you were there illegally.
Our country can support only so many immigrants annually. It is financially impractical to think we can support social services for millions of poor needy people. Many countries require you have a marketable skill and financial resources before you are allowed to immigrate to their country. Many even require that you be sponsored by a citizen of the country you wish to become part of.
What part of “Illegal Alien” don’t people understand? Come here illegally and you should be sent back to your country of origin. If the United States does not stop the constant flow of illegal aliens into this country it will destroy our country. The United States must make some hard choices or we will not survive as a country. Do the math and you will find we are near the point of no return down the road to ruin.
I firmly believe big money wants to keep the illegals coming so they have plenty of cheap labor. The cheap labor hurts the job market for U.S. citizens and depresses wages. The only winners are the ultra rich.
If immigration is not handled in a logical and fiscally correct manner there will be nothing but losers. Regulated immigration to a realistic number of people who can contribute something to this country and not expect a handout.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Anon, you missed the entire point of the post. Try again.

As for the arguments you made here, maybe I addressed some of them in this post, or perhaps this one. best,

AW said...

Let me help Anonymous a little. The problem is that the immigration laws are too strict and that is what is CAUSING illegal immigration. If people were permitted to enter and remain legally, they would not be "illegal."

The author likens our current overly-restrictive immigration laws with the anti-immigration laws of King George. Restriction of immigration (naturalization) was thus one of the causes of the Revolutionary war.

If the laws were the same when your grandparents came here as they are now, it is likely your grandparents would not have been able to come here at all, and you thus would not exist.

I agree on the dearth of Constitutional scholars in this debate. I have been looking for them. Margaret Stock is pretty knowledgable, but we need more.

Anonymous said...

Where are Scalia and Thomas on immigration? Oh yeah, they support lifelong detention of immigrants if their home country won't take them back. So much for original intent.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I did look at your prior post and agree with some of the points. A guest worker program that would give evidence of a marketable skill would be a step in the right direction. I would be willing to see if such a program would work as well as it looks on paper. You refer to Chip and Medicare as methods of payment. Both of these are funded by tax money, the money does not appear by magic.

Historically there were not any social services available to immigrants and there was not a huge burden on the medical system. I will soon not be able to afford medical coverage for myself and my family and it makes me very angry to see people come from other countries illegally getting free care by law. I might be able to afford medical coverage if it were not for the large number of illegal aliens in our country.

I think a workable solution could be reached if greed by big money interests did not interfere with immigration law making. I am open to a solution that really works for the good of all. Being part Native American I am not saying all you white, brown, black, yellow people should go back where you came from. All of us have made this country what it is but we are about to destroy it if we do not make serious changes to our culture.

We don’t need Mexican Americans, African Americans, White Americans, or Native Americans. What we need is only Americans of one mind and direction or this country will fade from greatness. We are a fractured society trying to go in several different directions and this cannot continue.

By the way the quote you gave Grits mentioned the King blocking immigration laws! I think they were talking about lawful immigration. If the Congress of the United States passes a new immigration law and people follow it then I have no complaint even if I don’t agree with the new law.

Grits you have a great blog that opens up reasonable discussion on major topics such as this one. When we communicate we all learn new perspectives we would be totally ignorant of.

I would like to see as many people have the same opportunity my grandparents had to make a new life in our country as possible. I guess my position is, be part of making this country a great place to live or you are not welcome to come here expecting us to take on the ways of your old country. Taking on the culture of other countries is only a form of foreign invasion. I think celebrating foreign holidays is not good for our society. We should be focused on what made this country great and celebrate that!

I am just an old white man/Native American who has lived a long time and seen many changes; some good and even more bad. History tells us a country like ours has only about a 300 year life span. I guess the U.S. is like me, over the hill and on the way out! I only hope the greedy politicians don’t screw-up things so badly my wife and I end up eating out a trash heap somewhere before we die.

Double Eagle

Anonymous said...

After writing my above post I noticed there were some new comments. Further light was shed on the topic. I am not for “Highly Restrictive” immigration laws. I am for immigration laws that allow a workable number of people to enter the U.S. after showing they are an asset to the country. My grandfather had a marketable skill and operated his own business until he died.

As I said in my prior post, a guest worker program might be an excellent gateway to permanent residency and citizenship. Again I am not against immigration but we cannot support unlimited numbers of immigrants annually.

Hope you youngsters figure out the right answers. I am counting on you!

Double Eagle

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Wow, where to start? I'm with you on the fracturing nature of identity politics, but the history you're giving is just wrong, Double Eagle, no offense.

First, my family came to the US before the Civil War on both sides, so there was no such thing as illegal immigration then, which was the point of the post. The only reason we even have federal immigration laws is the abnegation of the 10th Amendment after the Civil War.

Also, you should visit the Ellis Island exhibit in New York sometime. If your grandparents immigrated in the 1890s, the only restrictions on them were basically they couldn't be sick - even if they were, they cared for them in a hospital wing at Ellis till they got better (with the exception of certain, specific deadly diseases) then let them go ashore. By contrast, it's highly likely today your ancestors couldn't have gotten in. And if you don't think most Mexicans have a "marketable skill," go to any construction site.

As for the "foreign invasion" stuff (no offense, but it's xenophobic hogwash), you'd also learn at the Ellis exhibit that ethnic-based "benevolent societies" actively recruited non-English speaking immigrants throughout the period your grandparents immigrated and built politically powerful ethnic enclaves on the eastern seaboard that did not automatically aspire to maximum assimilation.

Indeed, here in Texas in the 1950s my father knew German-American kids at UT Austin whose families descended from immigrants fleeing the 1848 revolutions in Europe whose families still spoke German in the home in small Hill Country towns. They were good American citizens, not invaders, no matter what language they spoke or how long it took them to fully assimilate.

Finally, from an economic perspective we don't "support" immigrants. They work and pay taxes and get fewer benefits than citizens. In fact, we need more immigration to keep the social security and medicare systems solvent. We need them to "support" us!!

I wish I understood why, about the third generation after they arrive, families of American immigrants appear to want to close the door behind them. When did we become so afraid? And of what?

Anonymous said...

My late Mother came here right after WWII. She was blonde, blue-eyd and spoke English (albeit the UK version), so she had no problem getting a visa - the only requirement was that she needed to marry my Father within 2 weeks of arriving. Nowadays, we have American Servicemen who are already married to non-Europeans and who have difficulty getting their wives into this country. We also have business interests who are vested in keeping illegals illegal - that way they can work them for below minimum wage and call INS if they need to get rid of the workers. Migrant workers get screwed on a regular basis.

Grits, I applaud you for your well-reasoned and forthright stand on the injustice of our current system. You are right on the mark.

For all of us who pride ourselves on the Judeo-Christian heritage of this country; we need to remember that the Bible contains numerous references to justice and mercy. Specifically applicable to this discussion are the provisions for the foreigners in Deuteronomy, esp. Deut.27:19.

Finally, I close with the words of my Irish paternal grandmother who said, "I can remember what it was like for the Irish in Boston in the 1890s. How soon we forget the injustices done to us when we do those same injustices to others."

God bless this nation of immigrants! A Mongrel-American

Anonymous said...

Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution gives the feds the power "To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization", which they did in 1795.

http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/naturalization/naturalization_text.html

Until that time the states were free to do as they chose on the issue I presume. I think Virginia and Pennsylvania acted on those powers.