Commentary: Citizenship and the Nation-State

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by Edward J. Erler

 

A prominent immigration scholar, David Jacobson, writes that “[t]ransnational migration is steadily eroding the traditional basis of nation-state membership, namely citizenship. As rights have come to be predicated on residency, not citizen status, the distinction between ‘citizen’ and ‘alien’ has eroded. The devaluation of citizenship has contributed to the increasing importance of international human rights codes, with its premise of universal ‘personhood’.”

The goal of the Progressive Left is to abolish the classifications of citizens and aliens in favor of what is now known as “universal personhood” for those who might otherwise be called “citizens of the world” if that phrase was not an utter contradiction. A policy of open borders—the abolition of the nation-state—would usher in the era of the universal person; but it would also usher in the era of universal tyranny, or what has been called the “universal homogeneous state,” the European Union on a global scale.

However noble and inspiring the sentiments on the Statue of Liberty might seem, they are not part of the Constitution. The Constitution commands that the interests of American citizens take precedence over any demands emanating from the “world community.” The advocates of the universal homogeneous state, however, no longer believe that national security or preservation of the nation-state is a rational goal; rather, national security must be subordinate to other more pressing goals more compatible with political correctness: openness and diversity.

These goals have supplanted national security as the nation’s priority, even if it means that the nation must run considerable risk. Open borders serve to demonstrate our commitment to openness and diversity.

Is Diversity Our Strength?

For many years progressive liberalism has asked us to believe something incredible: that the most important and admirable aspect of the American character is defined only by its openness and unlimited acceptance of diversity. A defined American character—devotion to republican principles, republican virtue, the habits and manners of free citizens, and self-reliance—would be impermissibly exclusive, and thus impermissibly American. The universal homogeneous state only recognizes openness, and devotion to diversity and acceptance as virtues. It must therefore condemn exclusivity as the greatest vice. It is the nation-state that insists on exclusive citizenship and immigration policies that impose various kinds of restrictions. Openness as a political virtue inevitably inclines to the support of open borders, and it would be utterly surprising to learn that the advocates of openness and diversity are unaware of this.

Our progressive politicians (both Republican and Democrat) and opinion leaders proclaim their commitment to diversity almost daily, chanting the same refrain: “Diversity is our strength.” This is the gospel according to political correctness. But how does diversity strengthen us? Is it a force for unity and cohesiveness? Or is it a source of division and contention? Does it promote the common good and the friendship that rests at the heart of citizenship? Or does it promote racial and ethnic division and something resembling the tribalism that prevents most of the world from making constitutional government a success? When is the last time anyone in Washington referred to the common good? We are used to hearing talk about the various stakeholders and group interests, but not much about what the nation has in common.

Greater diversity inevitably means that we have less in common, and the more we encourage diversity, the less we honor the common good. Any honest observer can see that diversity is the solvent that dissolves the unity and cohesiveness of a nation; we should not be deceived into thinking that its proponents do not understand the full implications of their advocacy. Any nation that believes that diversity is its strength has already made the decision to dissolve itself.

Anyone can see today that the nation is dissolving, its unity lost, with tribes, races, ethnicities, and various other identity groups competing for superiority. Black Lives Matter and Antifa have momentarily slowed the dissolution, by asserting anti-race hatred on the one hand and anti-class hatred on the other. But this is an illusion. BLM, for example, insists that it is racist to say that “all lives matter.” There is no reasonable argument to support this assertion of “racism,” nor is there any claim of justice to support the claim. It is simply an assertion of racial superiority: obviously as a matter of logic and reason “all lives matter includes black lives.” If “all lives matter” is racist, then reason is “racist.”

And here we reach the nub of the issue. Reason represents “white supremacy,” the dominance of Western civilization and white dominance through the nation-state. Black Lives Matter represents “progress” because it rejects Western reason and Western civilization, the very source of white supremacy and racism. Yes, it leads to a return to tribalism and the rejection of reason, but white racism and white supremacy that resulted from Western reason is the greater evil.

The dissolution of the United States is moving faster than most of us realize or can possibly imagine. Diversity is the strength of the universal homogeneous state which will use diversity to dispense with the common good and constitutional democracy.

Diversity, of course, marches under the banner of tolerance but is in reality a bastion of intolerance. It enforces its ideological liberalism with a fanaticism driven by political correctness, the most ingenious (and insidious) stratagem for suppressing freedom of speech, political dissent, and religious liberty ever invented.

Diversity and Political Correctness

Political correctness could have been stopped dead in its tracks nearly four decades ago, but Republicans refused to kill it when they had the opportunity. In the 1980 presidential election campaign, Ronald Reagan promised to end affirmative action by rescinding the executive order issued by Lyndon Johnson that created it. This promise was warmly received by the electorate, but President Reagan failed to deliver his promised repeal. Too many Republicans had become convinced that they could use affirmative action to their advantage, using the largesse associated with racial class entitlements to attract minorities to the Republican Party. By signing on to the regime of political correctness, Republicans were never able to mount an effective opposition to its seemingly irresistible advance.

Today, any Republican charged or implicated with racism—however tendentious, outrageous, implausible, exaggerated, or false the charge or implication may be—will quickly surrender, often preemptively. This applies equally to other violations of political correctness: homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, genderphobia, transphobia, and a host of other so-called irrational prejudices. After all, there is no rational defense against an “irrational fear,” which is what the various phobias are alleged to be. Republicans have rendered themselves defenseless against political correctness, and the establishment wing of the party doesn’t seem particularly concerned, as they frequently join the chorus of Democrats in denouncing President Trump’s violations of political correctness. Only Trump seems undeterred in his determination to resist the tyrannical threat that rests at the core of political correctness.

No nation-state can survive by deliberately adopting a policy of “diversity.” National unity must be the counter to those liberal (and conservative) progressives who would propel us into the universal homogeneous state. There is nothing fated about the global state or the universal person. Nations make choices. They are not simply swept along by the currents of the dialectic of History. Contrary to the assurances of George W. Bush, who has become a Trump opponent, freedom is not fated, as he assured Americans in his second inaugural; freedom it is not easy to establish or perpetuate simply because, as Bush said, “the human soul yearns for it.” Every free nation knows that, as one of our nation’s monuments has it (if it survives the current hysteria) “freedom is not free.”

The Great Society, Identity Politics, and Tribalism

Today’s abandonment of the principles of the Declaration have opened the door to racial and identity politics, where the first concern of the law is the racial, ethnic, and gender class with which one happens to identify. Race and ethnicity, gender and transgender, and sexual orientation in its various guises have all been given special recognition for purposes of the Constitution and law. The concept behind the Declaration, the equal protection of equal rights of individuals regardless of class or caste, has given way to a rebirth of the caste and tribal system of the past where rights are conditioned by claims of tribal privilege instead of the privileges and immunities of citizenship.

This development is often praised as progress. But anyone with the slightest understanding of the meaning of progress understands that the retreat to tribalism is not progress. Yet if we are convinced that citizenship is truly anachronistic and global citizenship unworkable, tribalism may be the only alternative. This alternative, of course, will require new gods representing new tribes and these gods will not be benevolent gods.

The Great Society gradually became suffused by race and identity politics. Once the idea of racial reparations or equitable remedies based on race began to take hold, anyone with the slightest vision knew it would be impossible to stop its momentum, no matter how much soothing talk about dispensing with racial categories was possible once the “playing field” was level. Those who press racial class entitlements and entitlements based on the ever-expanding field of identity class will never admit that the playing field is becoming level; in fact, the complaint will always be that it is becoming increasingly steeper. Racial class and identity class demand such assertions.

The “playing fields” have become so steep in the perfervid imaginations of the various identity interests that the world of reparations has fallen into chaos driven by primitive demands of racial superiority. The equality that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were designed to protect seem to have been abandoned. Was the goal of equality before the law—even though never perfectly implemented—not a just and equitable goal? Or do justice and equity now demand that equality before the law be exposed as just another form of racism?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had finally put the destructive genie of race securely in its bottle; there was much work still to be done, but there were now legal remedies available for racial injustices. But as soon as that old racial genie had been secured, new prophets arose and said we can teach that old genie new tricks. We can teach him to give up his evil ways and be a force for good. We will turn him loose to do the work of racial reparations and racial equity based on racial proportionality.

Others with longer memories and further vision warned: Don’t do it! That evil genie is incapable of learning new ways; he is a trickster: he will promise good things, but the genie of race is always evil—history has proven that it will always be a force for evil; it will never be satisfied with equality under the law. It always seeks superiority—it wants to rule. It wants to dominate, it wants to destroy.

Have we not learned our lesson? Don’t let it loose again! You will regret it! It will promise equality—it will promise anything to work its evil; it is willing to work every deception on those of goodwill—in the name of equality it will destroy equal protection of the laws and racial equality.

Were not these words of warning correct? The evil genie calls for racial superiority and those who should know better kneel before the clarion call of their own destruction.

The Immigration Act of 1965

In his signing statement for the Immigration Act of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson insisted that “[t]his bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives, or really add importantly to either our wealth or our power. Yet it is still one of the most important acts of this Congress and of the administration.” It is almost shocking to hear this language from President Johnson, who always described his own achievements in grandiose terms; how can we possibly understand the manner in which he underplays the importance of the legislation, even as he touts it as “one of the most important acts . . . of the administration?”

We know, of course, that the “bill” did turn out to be “revolutionary” and it did “affect the lives of millions;” and we suspect that the president was well aware of its future impact. One perceptive commentator, Roger Daniels, noted that “[t]he bill, in fact, changed the whole course of American immigration history, although it did so along lines that were already apparent for the few who had eyes to see. In addition, it facilitated a great increase in the volume of immigration . . . . The most striking effect of the new law has been further to increase the share of immigration slots going to Asia and Latin America.”

Great numbers of immigrants came to the United States from the Third World, both legally and illegally, driven by the immense pressures of despotism and economic deprivation in their native countries. The stated purpose of the Immigration Act, according to President Johnson, was to “correct a cruel and enduring wrong” in United States immigration policies; the unstated purposes of the act was to change the racial and ethnic mix of the population of the United States, not only as compensation for past racial injustice, but also as a way of consolidating the administrative state by adding to its list of client groups.

Immigrants from third world countries have a more difficult time adapting to American customs, habits, and laws and show less willingness to do so. These immigrants are more likely to need the services of the administrative state, and it was only too willing to specify the terms and conditions for their adjustment to American society.

In fact, the administrative state encouraged immigrants to retain their cultures by promoting multiculturalism. The administrators—and eventually the immigrants—demanded that America should change to accommodate those with different cultures. The old goal of the “melting pot” became mocked as a racist legacy in the new universe of multiculturalism. Indeed, demands that immigrants adapt to American habits and manners were derided as cultural genocide, a product of America’s overweening arrogance, an arrogance fueled by the anachronistic notion of American exceptionalism.

The welfare bureaucracy—and its allies in the “civil rights community”—were eager to perpetuate the dependence of new immigrants, whether legal or illegal. Bilingual education, affirmative action, and other forms of welfare dependency came to the forefront. Hugh Davis Graham, a respected civil rights scholar, remarked that “[t]he eligibility of 80 percent of immigrants to America for affirmative action programs made a mockery of the historical rationale that minority preferences compensated for past discrimination in America.” Furthermore, Graham notes, “[t]he proliferation since the 1970s of bilingual/bicultural education programs in American schools has further segregated and isolated Mexican (and Hispanic) children from the American mainstream and weakened the acquisition of English literacy and competence in school subjects leading to higher education and advancement in America’s high-tech economy.”

Most scholars, of course, deny that there was any concerted effort on the part of the administrative state to co-opt newcomers. The policies were piecemeal and the consequences seemingly unintended. But the administrative state has a life of its own. It seeks to extend the reach of its influence and magnify its power, and it does so largely out of sight of the public. Its weapons are administrative regulations and policies of indirection, all backed by the cooperation of a compliant court system. The Immigration Act played an important role. As one administrator, the director of the Census Bureau, explained, “without fully realizing it we have left the time when the nonwhite, non-Western part of our population could be expected to assimilate to the dominant majority. In the future, the white Western majority will have to do some assimilation of its own.” The non-Western part of the American population has already been relieved of its obligation to assimilate; the “white Western majority,” however, will soon acquire assimilation responsibilities of its own. These responsibilities will be presented as matters of simple justice—they will be racial and ethnic reparations.

What has raised the ire of the minions of the administrative state more than anything perhaps is the American middle class, often referred to as the “selfish” class by intellectuals and welfare state administrators. The middle classes in the United States are the selfish classes because they aspire to secure a comfortable bourgeois existence and the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor. They want the safety of suburban life for themselves and their children; they want good schools for their children; they oppose busing; they want to be free from burdensome regulation. They oppose the welfare state, and their recalcitrance has been a formidable barrier to the complete dominance of that welfare state. After all, the middle classes are anti-tax, anti-immigration, and anti-big government. They want lower taxes, oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants and open borders, oppose multiculturalism, and support smaller government.

These are the people who supported President Trump. And Trump’s economic policies have been successful enough to attract blacks and Hispanics who have been entering the middle classes at rates that have raised alarms among progressive liberals and the defenders of the administrative state. Dependent classes, not the middle classes, are the key to the future of the administrative state. The administrative state has mounted an all-out war against Trump’s attempts to curb its influence. If Trump loses in 2020, the administrative state will be unbridled.

In 1982, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Plyler v. Doe, a case involving illegal alien children. The court, Justice William Brennan writing for a 5-4 majority, held that under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause the state of Texas may not deny to illegal alien children the same free public education that it provides to United States citizens or legally admitted aliens. To reach this conclusion Justice Brennan indulged considerable judicial legerdemain in an attempt to abolish the distinction between legal and illegal aliens.

He admitted that, like all persons who have entered the United States unlawfully, these children are subject to deportation. But there is no assurance, Brennan noted, that a child subject to deportation will ever be deported. An illegal entrant might be granted federal permission to remain in the country, or even the chance to become a citizen. In light of the discretionary federal power to grant relief from deportation, a state cannot realistically determine that any particular undocumented child will in fact ever be deported until after deportation proceedings have been completed. It would, of course, be most difficult for the state to justify a denial of education to a child enjoying what Brennan describes as “an inchoate federal permission to remain.”

Thus, according to Justice Brennan’s irrefragable logic, once an illegal alien child is brought to the United States and is able to avoid deportation, either by federal discretion, inefficiency, or unwillingness to enforce the law, the child is now entitled to a constitutional guarantee of free public education under the equal protection clause, and his family can insinuate themselves into the fabric of American society and enjoy “an inchoate federal permission to remain.” This “federal permission,” of course, may have its uncertainties depending upon the ebb and flow of immigration politics, but there will be many immigration advocacy organizations and legal groups who will represent their interests. Illegal aliens in this category are now regularly known as “Americans in waiting,” a designation that began with Plyler’s amorphous and constitutionally suspect “inchoate permission to remain.”

That decision was not protested with any particular vigor by establishment Republicans or Democrats of any stripe because it fit the tacit agreement the two parties had on the continued tolerance and even encouragement of illegal immigration. To date no Supreme Court decision has held that the children of illegal aliens born in the United States are automatically birthright citizens, although some commentators point to dicta that can be construed as so holding. In Plyler the children themselves were illegal aliens.

“Americans in Waiting” Come Out of the Shadows

President Reagan, in his signing statement for the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, spoke of illegal immigrants “who must hide in the shadows without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society.” However much the metaphor of “hiding in the shadows” has been used to describe the plight of illegal aliens, it has never been as accurate as the advocates for illegal aliens would have us believe. The “Americans in waiting” have always been “hiding” in plain sight, not lurking in the shadows.

In 2006, for example, protest marches brought forth millions of illegal aliens and their supporters out of the shadows into the public square demanding amnesty and the whole panoply of rights usually reserved to citizens and legal residents. Americans in waiting would wait no more! These demonstrations were calculated to bring pressure on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform—hardly the actions of the fearful cowering in the shadows as they were always portrayed by the media, immigration advocacy groups, and congressional committees.

The demonstrations were designed to be a kind of public recognition that illegal aliens are crucial to the American economy and should be allowed to enter the mainstream of society. They do the necessary work that Americans are unwilling to do—hard physical labor for low wages and no benefits. Legalizing illegal aliens would therefore be a forthright and just recognition of the important role they have assumed in the American economy.

The demonstrations undoubtedly were a grave miscalculation. They served only to harden public opinion against comprehensive reform, especially reform involving amnesty and a path to citizenship that President Bush had promised. Bush was forced to retreat from his early promise that amnesty for illegal aliens would be the first step on the path to citizenship. Unlike President Bush, the demonstrators were clear: they wanted amnesty and simply did not see the necessity of denying the obvious: amnesty was a recognition of their status as “citizens in waiting.” It was an odd spectacle: illegal immigrants boldly and boisterously taking to the streets to demand a change in the law. Only in the world of postmodern citizenship—hurtling toward the universal homogeneous state—was such a spectacle possible: illegal aliens demanding a law that would challenge the sovereignty of the United States.

What is more fundamental to a sovereign nation than the determination of who can become citizens and who shall remain aliens? This, of course, was a distinction that was effectively collapsed in the Plyler decision. The right to determine citizenship and to defend borders is inherent in the idea of sovereignty. Surrender these fundamental attributes and it is a simple fact that no nation can remain sovereign. It is thus the first priority of those who advocate the universal homogeneous state to attack the idea of exclusive citizenship and the idea of borders.

We hear so much about openness and diversity—the favorite themes of those who promote the universal homogeneous state—that we have described it as the European Union on a global scale, a universal state that will be populated by “universal persons.” There will be no citizens in the universal homogeneous state, only clients of the administrative state ruled by an elite administrative class.

Character, Citizenship, and Immigration

Thomas Jefferson understood the vital element of character in citizenship and the relation of citizenship to the regime when he proposed this “experiment” in the Notes on the State of Virginia: “Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into France, what would be the condition of that kingdom? If it would be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce similar effect here.”

Twenty million Americans thrown suddenly into a monarchical regime would indeed undermine the regime. Americans possessing the virtues of republicanism and habituated to self-government and independence, bristling at the idea of unquestioned obedience and enforced obsequiousness would make them ill-suited to be citizens of a monarchy. This would introduce an element of anarchy into the French monarchy that undoubtedly would force it to become a tyranny in order to survive.

“[W]e may believe,” Jefferson posits, “that the addition of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a similar effect here.” Jefferson does not specify who the foreigners might be, but he had earlier speculated that most of those seeking refuge in America would be those fleeing absolute monarchies or other forms of despotic governments. As might be expected, refugees from democratic or republican regimes would be rare. One might think that those fleeing absolute monarchy and other despotic regimes would relish their new-found freedoms and easily fall into the habits and manners of free citizens. But Jefferson is adamant that these refugees will not become good republican citizens—or at least not easily and not quickly. Their emigration should therefore not be encouraged.

In the first place, “[t]hey will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for 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.” Those who grow up in despotic regimes are habituated to obedience and deference to authority, to bowing and flattery in the presence of social class superiors. This becomes habitual and not easily discarded or, if discarded, it is done so without regard to civility; rather it is done with a contempt and disdain inspired by class hatred that easily turns to a license that is characteristic of anarchy rather than republicanism.

Refugees from despotism do not make good republican citizens because they cannot easily shake the habits of deference and assume the habits of independence; if they do throw off the habits and manners accumulated under despotism, it is more likely they will do it in exchange for “unbounded licentiousness” rather than rational and moderate liberty. The exercise of rational liberty—the genuine pursuit of happiness—is acquired only over the course of many years of being habituated to republican virtue. Education to republican virtue begins almost at birth; it is not easily acquired even for those who live their entire lives in republican regimes.

To expect the newly arrived easily to exchange the chains of despotism for the robes of republican virtue is unrealistic, if not wholly utopian. It is better, Jefferson muses, to populate republican America from its native stock. But he knows that too is wholly unrealistic. The country is too large, its resources too vast and its population too small. One of the complaints given in the Declaration that the King had a design of establishing “an absolute Tyranny” was that he “has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither.” But Jefferson was clear that immigrants must be chosen carefully. He preferred those who are emigrating from free regimes and to admit only those who can contribute something valuable to America’s interest and comport themselves according to the principles of republican government.

There would be no open borders in Jefferson’s vision. First choice would go to those who already possess the habits and manners of freedom; next would be “useful artificers”—“spare no expense in obtaining them,” Jefferson declaims. “They will teach us something we do not know.”

Throughout American history the assimilation of immigrants has proceeded apace. I think Jefferson underestimated the capacity of the United States to assimilate a wide variety of peoples. According to Abraham Lincoln, it was Jefferson’s own handiwork, the Declaration of Independence that made assimilation such a powerful force in America. In July, 1858, Lincoln, speaking of the American Revolution, said:

We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men . . . We hold this annual [fourth of July] celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit . . . We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,’ and then they feel that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together.

All immigrants can trace their lineage to the blood of the Founders through “the electric cord” of the Declaration. Dedication to those principles, the “father of all moral principle,” replaces descent by blood as the title to citizenship and motive force for assimilation. Republican morals, habits, and manners; self-government; dedication to freedom; and the measured pursuit of happiness all flow from that dedication. As the authority of those principles has declined in the United States so has the nation’s capacity—and its willingness—to assimilate immigrants. Today, the Declaration is denounced as a document of white supremacy by ignorant ideologues and Abraham Lincoln who restored its principles against the sustained attack of the slaveocracy is denounced as a “racist.” The inmates are truly running the asylum.

In retrospect, it is easy to see what a mistake the Immigration Act of 1965 was. It put an emphasis on immigration from third world countries, those countries whose people would have the greatest difficulty assimilating. They were welcomed by administrative state bureaucrats who convinced them it was wrong to assimilate. The country was on its way to multiculturalism without any principles to serve as a guide, to say nothing of a “moral principle.” Assimilation, not multiculturalism, is the strength of a nation. Multiculturalism dissolves and dissipates a nation’s strength.

A nation-state must have a common good, something that all citizens share and look up to, something that transcends their immediate interests, something that is patriotic. As Lincoln’s speech indicated, that was the Declaration—the principle that “all men are created equal.” That is the electric cord that binds all citizens, regardless of race, color, ethnicity or national origins. Once the nation has cut itself loose from that “sheet anchor” of republicanism, it will simply be adrift without any principles to guide it.

If in our hysteria we condemn our founding principles as irredeemably racist, we will no longer guide ourselves by the central principle of natural right: “all men are created equal.” As mentioned earlier, the statement that “All lives matter,” a statement compelled by the fact of human equality is now condemned as “racist,” and deemed by street mobs as worthy of the death penalty. Without the natural right principles of the founding, the nation has no future but dissolution and anarchy.

In Case There Is Need for Future Immigration Policy Based on Founding Principles

President Trump has offered proposals to reform immigration policies to emphasize American interests. The United States should, to use Jefferson’s terms, invite “useful artificers,” those who bring useful skills and contribute to the economy. The “diversity lottery” as the president has mentioned several times, is the most destructive immigration policy imaginable. It is diversity for the sake of mere diversity. What is the value in that? Diversity has no intrinsic value.

Immigration policies should serve the interests of the nation-state; they should not be acts of charity to the world. The integrity of the nation-state is intimately tied to the integrity of constitutional government and the fulfillment of its purposes, the safety and happiness of the people, which includes the protection of rights and liberties and privileges and immunities that are integral parts of the pursuit of happiness. Those invited to become members of the body politic should have something to offer to the common good, not only the capacity to adopt the habits and manners of republican citizens, but the wherewithal to be independent citizens who will not become prey to the minions of the administrative state.

Full acceptance of American principles as specified in the Declaration and the Constitution are a minimum requirement for becoming a member of the American polity. A useful occupation that contributes to the American economy should be another minimum requirement. Unskilled or low skilled labor only creates an underclass that shuts out Americans from entry-level jobs that provide the acquisition of necessary work-discipline and skills for economic advancement.

American immigration policy must seek skilled workers who can make an immediate contribution and who are needed to fill gaps created by a dynamic economy. Immigration driven by compassion is misplaced. Compassion is sometimes necessary in extraordinary situations, but as a general policy, it only exhibits weakness to the world. No one has a right to emigrate to the United States.

The world is rapidly lapsing into chaos, where only a few stable constitutional governments hold out prospects for survival. These governments cannot be the last refuge for those fleeing violence, terror, poverty, and the host of other ills that afflict the world. If these governments insist on becoming these refuges—if they insist on erasing borders in the pursuit of that goal—they too will dissolve into dysfunction. The nation-state is the last refuge of freedom and constitutional government. It requires not only wise choices, but difficult choices.

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Edward Erler is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and author of Property and the Pursuit of Happiness: John Locke, the Declaration and James Madison (Roman & Littlefield, July 2019) and The United States in Crisis: Citizenship, Immigration and the Nation-State.
Photo “Citizenship Paperwork” by Grand Canyon National Park. CC BY 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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