Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Addendum to Post: Arizona’s Immigration Law SB1070

A news station in Atlanta had two stories this week that add still more definition to the impetus Arizona law makers had for passing SB1070.

The stories may be viewed here:

What is most interesting is not that lots of people are crossing the border illegally, but who is crossing the border.

“People from terrorist nations are among the hundreds of thousands of people caught each year crossing the Mexico-US border.”

This is not surmise, speculation, or scare tactics used to bolster the arguments of those looking to secure the US border.  Via an unnamed congressional staffer, this Atlanta news station obtained a governmental report showing that people from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have all been detained after being apprehended while trying to cross the border.  It is also presumed that 23 Somali Al Qaeda members recently released from Mexican prison, have made their way to the border.

For some reason the government no longer releases this list of what they have designated as OTM’s – other than Mexicans – who have been captured.  Why is this presumably public data now being suppressed?

The news station confronted Congressman Paul Brown with the data.   He is, incidentally, on the Homeland Security Committee.  However, he apparently had never seen the report before (and vowed to take it back to Washington).

Is there any clearer evidence that the federal government is not doing it’s job to provide for the common defense?

1 comment

1 Brian Green { 08.13.10 at 3:04 pm }

The immigration debate that dominates the news is not a 21st century invention. The debate is much older than the republic itself. In the 1750’s, approximately 10% of the colonial American population spoke German as their only language. Twenty five years before the Declaration of Independence, a prominent rising political star in colonial Philadelphia wrote :

“Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation…and as few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, ’tis almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertain…Not being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it…I remember when they modestly declined intermeddling in our Elections, but now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties…In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.”

Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion. “

Benjamin Franklin also complained of street signs in both English and German. He was obviously annoyed that German immigrants were not assimilating to the English culture. Before Franklin became a scientific and political giant, he was an intelligent businessman. Despite his obvious cultural concerns, he saw the German population as potential customers to his printing business. He created the first German-language newspaper in North America. The Philadelphische Zeitung only lasted one year and Franklin miscalculated that it failed because the Germans were not interested in literary pursuits. A more realistic theory was that Franklin had used an English style font that Germans were not used to reading. In addition to the first newspaper, he also published the first German hymnbook in America. Franklin eventually came to appreciate the multi-cultural experience. He co-authored the first treaty of friendship between Germany and America in 1783 and was the president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

The Germans did eventually assimilate. By the time King George III hired Hessian mercenaries to aid in crushing the American rebellion; many Germans were already fighting on the American side of the conflict. Pennsylvania was dominated by Quaker populations and influence and the German-Americans distinguished themselves by joining the local militias, while the Quakers were fundamentally opposed to war.

There were several influencial immigrants who contributed to the success of the revolution. Frederick Muhlenberg was a German immigrant who served as a member of the Continental congress in 1779 and in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1780 to 1783. He was elected as its speaker on November 3, 1780. He was also president of the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention in 1787 called to ratify the Federal Constitution. You can find his signature first as a signer of the Bill of Rights. Benjamin Franklin saw the change in the German population and over time Franklin spent two months in Germany in 1766, but his connections to the country stretched across a lifetime. Of course the most famous and immigrant to shape the United States was Alexander Hamilton.
Another historical example of the immigration debate can be found in the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts of the John Adams administration. The country was extremely concerned with a looming war with France and a fear of internal insurrection in support of the French. One of the four enacted laws modified the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years and allowed the president to detain or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States”. The acts also limited free speech by making critical statements against the government illegal. These laws were passed in a highly partisan environment. The “party” politics of the 1790’s were considerably more vicious than anything we see today. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts by the general public eventually led to their partial repeal under the Jefferson administration. Some of the laws were simply allowed to expire. Part of this law does remain in effect and appears in Title 50 of the United States code.

“Whenever there is a declared war between the United States and any foreign nation or government, or any invasion or predatory incursion is perpetrated, attempted or threatened against the territory of the United States by any foreign nation or government, and the President makes public proclamation of the event, all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of the hostile nation or government, being of the age of fourteen years and upward, who shall be within the United States and not actually naturalized, shall be liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed as alien enemies.”

Today, the debate is dominated by the influx of illegal Mexican immigrants. The same concerns that Benjamin Franklin had in the mid-18th century can be found in the newspapers today. Fears of language and cultural assimilation have been stimulated by partisan fanatics on both sides of the issue. There can be no doubt that immigration reform is desperately needed. People who migrate legally to the U.S. have a long expensive process to ultimately reach citizenship. Openly allowing illegal immigration has created the atmosphere of discontent against all immigration. Security concerns about who is crossing the border are serious issues. Immigration is and will always be good for America, unfortunately illegal entry into the country is harming everyone. It is much easier for a person living in Mexico to come to the United States to work then it is for someone in Malta. Isn’t the citizen of Malta just as entitled to American dream as the citizen of Mexico? Congress needs to rise above the fray of party factionalism and enact fair responsible legislation that includes gentle assistance in cultural assimilation too.

The news on immigration portrays a sense of doom for the country. There is no doubt that illegal immigration puts a serious strain on all levels of government. It is also imperative that new residents learn the culture and are taught to support their new homeland for the good of their own children. If we peer into history on this topic, we find another example of Americans solving their differences. Democracy is not a fast moving process, but the spirit of the American people is determined and resolute.

We are extremely lucky to be living in a country where people want to live. There are reasons that the United States provides opportunity. Alexander Hamilton’s vision of creating a meritocracy still exists. People can elevate their status and rewards in life on the merits of their talents rather than by the status of their birth,

The question of what the founders would say of our current immigration debate is an easy one to answer. The founding fathers would be proud that America is still “the shining beacon on the hill” as Ronald Reagan said.

Of course Reagan’s quote has a story of its own. It seems to be based on the writings of John Winthrop, the former governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, but that is a topic for another day.

Sources: – John Winthrop – Current US Code Title 50 – Alien and Sedition Acts – Frederick Muhlenberg

The First American – The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands


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