In the days that have followed President Trump’s executive order on travel restrictions from terror prone countries and a delay in refugee processing for further vetting, mass protests disproportionate to actual fact checking have ensued from the left around the country.
Here in Maine, the elected officials from the cities of Gardiner and Hallowell have said they wanted to become lawless sanctuary cities before being forced to retract their intentions after massive public backlash. Here in Waterville, a nighttime protest in front of city hall occurred with demands of “resistance.”
All of this hysteria highlights fundamental questions about American immigration policy ranging from the government’s role in protecting the people to the question of what makes up our national values.
The United States has a long history welcoming immigrants from abroad who have come in search of a better life. Over the last two centuries, those immigrants have enriched our land and people. Equally long in history is a documented series of immigration policy changes that have varied according to our historical circumstances. The most recent directives put forward by the Trump administration fit well into this tradition.
In today’s environment where more than two generations of Americans have grown up in a country where unfettered, uncontrolled borders and immigration are the norm, it is no wonder that so many people today are confused about American values with regards to immigration. For eight years we have been lectured by President Obama telling us that controlling our borders and protecting the American people first is against our values, but is this true?
In 1790 during a debate on the naturalization process, James Madison stated, “It is no doubt very desirable that we should hold out as many inducements as possible for the worthy part of mankind to come and settle amongst us, and throw their fortunes into a common lot with ours. But why is this desirable? Not merely to swell the catalogue of people. No, sir, it is to increase the wealth and strength of the community; and those who acquire the rights of citizenship, without adding to the strength or wealth of the community are not the people we are in want of”
Madison, along with a litany of the remaining Founders who took their place in our early burgeoning republic, all spoke along this one theme: We are enriched by bringing others to our shores, but those who wish to be members of our free society must learn to assimilate into our national culture and adopt our shared values. In short, they must become with us, “one people.”
Today we live in a world that has been, in many areas, permeated with a radical and apocalyptic Islamism that is not confined to a visible army, and that seeks to destroy our very way of life precisely because of all that is good about our land and our people. At war with an enemy that knows no borders and wears no uniform, the mission of our government to protect the people – its primary purpose for existence – becomes not only difficult, but also crucial to ensure the safety of our citizens.
In 1802 Alexander Hamilton wrote, “The safety of a republic depends…on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias and prejudice.” He even went on further to state, “To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens the moment they put foot in our country would be nothing less than to admit the Grecian horse into the citadel of our liberty and sovereignty.”
While the Founders recognized the great benefit to community and country that proper immigration policy engendered, they also understood clearly the immediate threat to the fabric of the republic that could be posed by swelling the populace with persons who, by hostility or custom, would not adopt our shared American culture and values.
In a free republic where the people control the government, the fundamental purpose of government is to protect its citizens. It is not only the duty of the government to protect the people by ensuring the integrity and assimilation of immigrants, but it is also a thoroughly American value.