I’ve discussed already the liberal perspective on the immigrant horde. Now I’d like to talk about the other side of the equation, and help crystallize my own thoughts—and argue from at least one school of conservative thought—as to the flaws with the migrant horde, the philosophical and practical rationale for keeping them out, and the conservative perspective on immigration in general.
The Left plays up that these people come from desperate conditions, as it does in all scenarios like this. As I mentioned in my prior article, the Left tends to blame the United States first for these impoverished conditions and it does so in part because they’ve got end-stage Marxism. As I noted there, the United States is not responsible for the floundering of countries with a long history of socialism and the typically dysfunctional Latin American culture, which runs heavily to corruption of officialdom at every level and serial revolutions in virtually all places where it’s predominant. [Roman culture really. Darn those Roman colonialists. We took their form of Republic, but not their culture, which is why we do well enough. The Latin countries… sigh.- SAH]
More broadly, it helps to actually understand what we ask of our immigrants and why we ask it. And in order to examine that question, I’d like to start with something that should be very familiar to all naturalized immigrants—the Oath of Allegiance. What we ask of our immigrants is not only fairly clear, it’s repeated month after month, year after year, every year, by new Americans.
In the most general sense, immigration is how Americans who were born abroad come home. It is Not, with a capital “N”, how foreign nationals, still loyal to their home countries, acquire the nominal moniker of “American”. There is a reason that it is the very first thing every naturalized American must swear. “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;”. And this isn’t a symbolic gesture. In fact, it is doubly important that we mean it when we make people say it. The US gives its people unique leeway to redefine what the country is—which we will discuss in a moment—and thereby exists only by the grace of a kind of consensus philosophy. To accept the reward, and burden, of being American, is to explicitly turn your back on divided loyalties, and rededicate yourself to the maintenance and furtherance of that single philosophy and its subordinate guiding principles, to the exclusion of all others. Because we are not a nation of place, of race, of faith or of fealty. We are an idea made manifest, and ideas, while hard to kill, are fragile to maintain. Those principles and that philosophy need not be wondered at. They are explicitly notated in the constitution in the least ambiguous way the people writing knew how (they must have done an okay job, it took statists about 200 years to really pick the semantics apart and start interpreting things never intended in its text). And this is exactly why the Oath of citizenship goes on to say “That I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same”.
Having noted that, I will digress for a moment to take apart a particular Leftist trope, as it is cogent. People properly acquainted with the history of the country’s founding will recognize that the US is not in fact, a “nation of immigrants”, or at least not as the term is understood on the Left. The US is a nation of well circumscribed and elaborated foundational principles, outlined in the constitution and meant to be embodied in its citizenry. By corollary, a person who subscribes to, and is willing to uphold those principles, may be admitted as a citizen at our discretion—and the fact that they are an immigrant is not counted against them if they do so. Put another way, we are a nation that is willing to take those from all around the world who understand and believe in our core philosophy, and promise to commit everything to becoming one of us. We are therefore only “a nation of immigrants” in an incidental sense, because nation of origin matters less than caring about American principles—but we have no philosophical obligation nor reason to simply take immigrants because they are immigrants. That’s a self-defeating idea on the face of it. To argue that being from another nation is a reason in and of itself for admitting a person and making them a citizen, not only implicitly contradicts the first line of the citizenship oath, but is effectively simply an argument against borders of any kind—a far stupider idea that I’ve already separately taken to task in the past. Indeed, it’s perhaps even something more radical if taken to its logical conclusion—an argument for forced emulsification of other nationalities with Americans. And yet strangely, once you peel back the risible accusations of racism, and the historically illiterate accusations that we caused the desolation in countries with an extensive history of Marxism, you’re left, essentially, with nothing more than this: that America has had significant contributions from immigrants, ergo immigrants must be an unsullied good in their own right.
Why must our oath be this way? Why do we have such a high bar? Well, as the US uniquely has as its nucleus only a set of ideas, it is uniquely invested in the ideas of its citizens. However, paradoxically, to embody the freedoms it represents and depends on, the US is expressly set up to minimize its ability to influence, change, and enforce the ideas of its citizenry. This includes ideas antithetical to, or even hostile to the US. Indeed, the US government cannot and should not arrogate to itself the ability to enforce a particular belief, even, unfortunately, the ones necessary for the US to survive— like free speech, freedom of association, and the right to bear arms— the last explicitly in case someone less cognizant of why the government must never stoop to enforcement of one viewpoint comes to power (On which point a sidebar is warranted— this is not the same thing as members of government expressing a viewpoint. Presidents are representatives of a party, parties are partisan affairs. Expressing their own beliefs, acting in accordance with them, is normal and expected. Indeed, it’s what we vote for. Trump is well within his rights to call things like he sees them, as often and as partisan as he likes. So was Obama. So was Bush. But when Obama’s IRS started targeting conservatives, that was enforcement of his viewpoint. That was highly unacceptable, and remains one of the worst marks of ignominy on a presidency marred by a long list of them.). This naturally raises the point that the United States is in constant peril from its own permissive philosophy.
There is, therefore, a countervailing force, and one that must be strenuously maintained. As by definition, the US cannot come to her own defense without ceasing to be what she stands for, her people must. The concepts upon which freedom rests are borne on the shoulders of her citizens. To permit the US to continue existing, it needs a vanguard of people who understand the core philosophy at its foundation, the principles on which it is based, and who will defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic—just as it says in the oath. The domestic enemies are more common than people realize, and they are neither mass shooters nor fake bombers. There is no policy decision that will legislate crazy people out of existence (Although on the other hand, Carter starting the de-institutionalization policies that eventually led to the closing of the insane asylums probably did not make the situation better. However, given the tone of the modern Left, it’s just as well that the bar for institutionalizing people against their will is a very high bar, as the Left has gone firmly crazy, insist nonetheless that they’re sane, and some people—I pray not enough to do real damage— are naive enough to take their word for it. Sooner or later the inmates may get the key to the madhouse.). Rather, domestic enemies are properly understood in this frame of reference to be champions of ideas that—if implemented—would result in the collapse of the American experiment. Our defense against these, within the strictures of our laws, is at the debate table and ballot box, but that it is conceived as non-violent does not make it non-important.
Indeed, one of the strengths of American democracy was that it was conceived in a way that allowed us to resist the proclivities of humans to centralize and plan-from-above, which have been destroying societies at least as far back as ancient Greece.
It is also remarkable in how undramatic it was in its conception, admitting the probability that people with some flawed ideas are not flawed in all ideas—that extreme measures to silence a person because of disagreement, even totally valid disagreement over things that are an existential threat to the nation, would throw many babies out with the bathwater and render the country draconian and uncomfortable in the meanwhile.
Ironically, even this idea, the underpinning of a civil society that is truly a civil society, turns out to be one that domestic enemies can ablate with enough ignorance, which is why Google and Facebook have turned to openly flirting with censorship (And, I note parenthetically for those who would “punch a Nazi”—and who strangely do not proceed to black their own eyes— that the non-violent intention behind this well-functioning system is no invitation to your continuing untrammeled in your antics. Nowhere is it required philosophically to continue non-violently in perpetuity even when violence and extra-legal intimidation and actions against our will are visited upon us. Indeed, that was rather the point of the rebellion. We are not a holy sect; we maintain a right to self-defense. I am very proud of conservatives as a whole for their character in the face of flagrant abuse of our system by the Left, most recently embodied by the smearing of Kavanaugh. I remain extremely hopeful that the Right can push back on the Left long enough for the Left to have some marginally sane, non-socialist leaders emerge, and that the Left does not push things to the point where the Right must either submit against their will or fight. It will not go well for anyone.)
The United States must have the right, given the above, to moderate and decide who comes in. This must be the case because people who maintain ideas of statism, centralization, and other concepts that contradict the foundational principles on which the constitution is based, can pose a serious threat, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment. While the US must suffer these people who arise natively, and count on the aggregate wisdom of the voters to maintain American principles despite them, it is by no means required to suffer the same from those seeking to come in. Immigrants are, first and foremost, supplicants, and whether you like it or not, bear the weight of intrinsic suspicion because their first loyalty, almost by definition, was not to the United States. That they were always Americans, born in another place by misfortune, is an extraordinary claim—we ask they provide extraordinary evidence, and that means jumping through our hoops. Incidentally, compared to the rest of the first world—Hell, compared to Mexico, as many have pointed out—the evidence we ask for is not even that extraordinary. These new Americans, we do not hold to the lax standards of people born here. They are starting anew, so we ask that they demonstrate anew their understanding and commitment to the principles that are at our core, as if they were among the founders themselves, rebelling against their own home.
The threat posed by people who do not understand our principles exists because, to best serve its mission, the US government was also conceived with formalized, strictly constrained methods of changing its structure. The point was that it should not blow with the wind, riding every fad that ran through the country. It was meant to be ponderous, difficult to change, requiring massive consensus among the people’s representatives—a point firmly lost on the 111th congress, incidentally, which used what could at best be called a procedural loophole to pass ObamaCare, and at worst simply did so illegally. As they have sown, so far, so they have reaped. We will see what transpires next week.
At all events, the US is permitted to change, with the intent that it do so along lines that better serve the freedom of the individual and the ability to live with a minimum of governmental interference. That is what makes the decision to free slaves a good one, and what makes propositions like “Medicaid for all” such bad ones. This flexibility, in the hands of a populace overly ignorant of the principles they live under, or at the capricious whim of people who worship at the altar of collectivism, becomes vulnerability. And it is vulnerability, as noted above, the US is by no means obligated to bear. We are not here to be misused and abused as a mere resource for any old huddled masses. We are interested only in those that truly yearn to breathe free—with all the responsibilities that entails.
I will note in closing that the last three generations have increasingly made me wonder if it is not time to consider abandoning birthright citizenship for all people in the United States, not just people from foreign soil. Increasingly I notice that it seems as though key knowledge about why America exists, and what it represents, has either been lost or deliberately manipulated to fit a neo-Marxist, class-struggle worldview more neatly. The assumption of the 14th amendment was that American citizens could, in general, be trusted to raise good American citizens—and while probably there have been like-minded curmudgeons like me in all generations, I will note nonetheless— I see little to persuade me that that is actually happening as intended. The Left is already trying to scare their base by saying Trump is contemplating an executive order to end birthright citizenship for all. That, at least, we’re safely assured he won’t do. He said his legal council endorsed the executive order, and that would simply contradict the 14th.
But since they have come to mention it?—well, what a good idea.