The antecedents of the pronouns "we" and "us" include the almost 80 million who are either immigrants — not excluding the more than 11 million undocumented ones — or their children. They might be amused to learn that in the only full-length book Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Notes on the State of Virginia," he worried that too many immigrants might be coming from Europe with monarchical principles "imbibed in their early youth," ideas that might turn America into "a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass."
A century later, Theodore Roosevelt, who detested "milk-and-water cosmopolitanism," saw virtue emerging from struggles between the "Anglo-Saxon" race and what his friend and soulmate Rudyard Kipling called "lesser breeds without the law." Roosevelt, who worried that the United States was becoming a "polyglot boarding house," supported America's first significant legislation restricting immigration, passed to exclude Chinese people, because he believed Chinese laborers would depress U.S. wages and be "ruinous to the white race."
In 1902, in the final volume of
professor Woodrow Wilson's widely read book "A History of the American People," the future president contrasted "the sturdy stocks of the north of Europe" — e.g., Norwegians — with southern and eastern Europeans who had "neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of quick intelligence." U.S. Army data gathered during World War I mobilization demonstrated, according to
Carl Brigham, a Princeton psychologist, "the intellectual superiority of our Nordic group over the Mediterranean, Alpine and Negro groups." Richard T. Ely, a leading progressive economist, spent most of his academic career at the University of Wisconsin, but first taught at Johns Hopkins, where Wilson was one of his students. Ely celebrated the Army data for enabling the nation to inventory its human stock just as it does its livestock. In 1924, Congress legislated severe immigration restrictions, which excluded immigrants from an "Asiatic Barred Zone."
The next phase of America's immigration debate, like the previous one, will generate the most heat about border security, and whether those who are here illegally should stay. The heat will be disproportionate.
of the more than 11 million — down from 12.2 million in 2007 — who are here illegally have been here at least 10 years; 31 percent are homeowners; 33 percent
have children who, having been born here, are citizens. The nation would recoil from the police measures that would be necessary to extract these people from the communities into the fabric of which their lives are woven. They are not going home; they are home.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, attitudes about immigration became entangled with policies about terrorism. So, as the Economist noted, "a mass murder committed by mostly Saudi terrorists resulted in an almost limitless amount of money being made available for the deportation of Mexican house- painters." This month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
agents raided 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 states, making 21 arrests, approximately one for every 4.5 stores. Rome was not built in a day and it would be unreasonable to expect the government to guarantee, in one fell swoop, that only American citizens will hold jobs dispensing Slurpees and Big Gulps.