It’s an opportunity, not a right

Published 7:22 am Monday, August 24, 2009

The public’s tolerance for ineffective immigration laws and inadequate enforcement comes, partly, from our poor understanding of immigration purpose and process. Effective laws and conscientious enforcement of immigration laws will come when we understand immigration is not a right or entitlement, but a privilege and opportunity.

Neither the Constitution nor any official policy grants the right or entitlement to immigrate. The colonies were not founded, and they did not constitute themselves a nation for the purpose of being a haven for anyone who wanted to immigrate.

The United States was founded as a nation of those who came here from elsewhere and made this their home.

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But the founders, including several waves and generations, were emigrates and not immigrants. The former is one who leaves his country, and the latter is one who comes to a country not his own. The difference between immigration (movement into) and emigration (movement out of) is crucial even though the words sound almost the same and appear synonyms. When emigrants from England and Holland arrived, there was no nation, only unconnected tribes, into which to immigrate. They became, first, colony and then nation.

Only then could yet others immigrate to the new nation. They did so subsequently and immigration became a treasured tradition, and we became proud of the way we absorbed immigrants. We became grateful for how grateful immigrants strengthened and enriched our society and culture.

We actually needed immigrants. They were as needed by those who arrived initially as the new arrivals needed the opportunities newly created by the first settlers. They were allowed a start but not given a free ride. What immigrants found upon arrival was opportunities but not entitlements.

It’s only a romantic and naive myth that America exists so anyone from any place can come for any reason and do whatever he wishes. Worse is the assumption citizens have the obligation to provide everything immigrants demand.

That wonderful poem “Give me your tired, your poor…” is not part of the Statue of Liberty but was placed on a separate plague as a private contribution seventeen years after the monument’s erection.

We fancy the only or main reason people wish to immigrate is for opportunity for self-improvement. This is indeed the American tradition, but it isn’t the practice of a large portion of today’s immigrants. Some want simply to pick up and drop into place here with subsistence either coming automatically or by government allocation.

Some had a fully adequate living where they were but are greedy for all there is here, and they think every American has all there is. When I asked people in Central America if they wished to live in the United States, many replied, “No, in Miami!”

Not a small number look for better opportunity to operate their criminal enterprises in riper territory. Most egregious are among the Russians.

We need to study carefully the recent experiences of most western European countries that have received immigrants, especially from Islamic lands, indiscriminately.

America’s history is one of melding cultures, but increasingly immigrants are wanting to make existing culture to conform to theirs.

A factor I have never seen discussed seriously is immigration’s impact upon the countries left behind. Our unconditional welcome has robbed many third world countries of their best talent and leaders. I was usually disappointed when my foreign students decided to stay in this country rather than take home what we had taught them to benefit those who couldn’t study here.

Immigration has been a serious brain drain on many countries, and we sometimes should refuse admission for the sake of the losing countries.

It’s beyond me to conceive final answers, but I think of some questions.

Is the person openly asking for admission or has he already illegally intruded?

Will the applicant benefit fairly or take the place of another who is more deserving and needy?

Will this country benefit adequately, or will this person become an unreasonable burden? Will this person enrich our culture and society or subvert it? Does he come for fair opportunity or indulgent entitlement?