How many times have you heard the expressions? “We are a nation of immigrants,” or “If not for immigration, you wouldn’t be here”? The list goes on. The list is largely accurate. What gets lost in translation, however, is the fact that, for much of our history, we were a nation of controlled immigration.
Four times between 1882 and 1934, laws were passed to limit immigration from China, Japan, India, and the Philippines.
The point is not whether these immigration quotas were right or wrong to implement- the point is that they existed. The point is that our history of letting people into our country has been weighed, debated, and voted upon by representatives of the people. Debate does not mean perfection; debate does mean consideration was taken.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the 20th Century immigration laws: The 1921 Quota Act was quickly followed by the stricter 1924 immigration act. In 1924, the quota for immigrants was 2% of the total population of each nationality already in the US, and excluded all Asian immigration. Preservation of the American culture- individual liberty, faith, hard work, etc.- was more important than potential votes.
There is no question that there was cultural and ethnic bias at work for some, but certainly not all, politicians who supported these quotas.
Immigration from Italy dropped from 200,000 a year to 4,000 a year due to the post-WWI immigration quotas. Even allies such as Great Britain were affected, with a yearly limit of 34,000 Brits and Northern Irish allowed to immigrate in a year. For those looking for a race angle, other than the ban on immigration from the Orient, limits were handled equally.
In 1934, the quota for immigrants from the Philippines was 50 people a year. A year. In 1952, the quota for immigrants from China was 100 immigrants a year.
China’s culture was- and is- not the same as our culture. What was easy to understand many years ago gets lost in the political fog that is modern-day America.
Ah, but things began to change. Political philosophies changed, which influenced public attitude. With the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, old immigration limits were jettisoned. The focus shifted away from the preservation of the American culture, principles which allowed liberty to grow, and maintaining a common language, to that of bringing entire families to our shores to meet up with prior immigrants, and job skills.
To underscore his utter inability to understand how today impacts tomorrow, President Lyndon Johnson stated at the time, in part, “(the Act) will not reshape the structure of our daily lives.”
Nowadays, we would follow up that line with, “Fail.” LBJ was clueless of the impact of the bill and how it would undermine our culture. He, and many others, were clouded by their own ideology.
According to History.com, European immigration has dropped from over half of all immigrants to just 6%. Europe, the cradle of Western Civilization, has begun collapsing over the past few decades, but what matters for America is that the history of Europe is being forgotten. The principles learned in Europe, and from where they learned their ideals (i.e., Greece and Rome) are being forgotten.
Descendants of tyranny must learn how to build and then maintain liberty, just as children of liberty must learn. The difference is that the children of liberty have known no other way, thus people from free countries assimilate much easier in the long term.
It’s not about white versus non-white; it’s about culture.
Now, thanks to H1B visas, we have evolved further away from our strong cultural foundation. H1B visas allow companies to import people, on a temporary basis, for the sole purpose of performing work. The basis for the theory is that there are some fields, such as engineering, where Americans do not produce enough qualified workers. Putting aside the validity of the theory, the foundational problem is that instead of training Americans, cheap labor is imported from overseas.
Unfortunately, the reality of H1B is much worse than a downward pressure on wages. Over the last couple of years, stories continue to surface about American individuals and entire departments in corporations being forced to train their foreign replacements- replacements who hold H1B visas.
The original intent of H1B could at one point have been wonderfully and excitingly cutting edge. Maybe. Now, it is a fraud-laced program that is another example of how the federal government doles out funds from the public trough to favored friends and supporters- in this case, corporate supporters.
We are, indeed, a nation of immigrants; that does not translate into ever being a nation of open borders or of unlimited immigration. While the above history does not outline the entire American history of immigration, certainly the rise of the American Century was shaped- no, controlled- by thoughtful, well-debated laws focused not on partisanship, but on America’s future. The same cannot be said of today’s national laws and societal attitudes.
Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.
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