We Are a Nation of Immigrants, Aren’t We? November 20, 2014Posted by geoff in News.
[This is a reposting of a post I wrote 4 1/2 years ago. Given President Obama’s imminent announcement of the biggest amnesty evah, I thought I’d hang it up here again.]
We Are a Nation of Immigrants, Aren’t We?
The pro-amnesty faction likes to bring up the “Nation of Immigrants” meme to make amnesty foes feel like they’re betraying the intent of the founding fathers. The meme suggests that there is, buried somewhere in the core of the American heritage, a patriotic duty to welcome immigrants to our shores. Using the “Nation of Immigrants” line lets them call amnesty critics “unpatriotic” right after they finish calling them “racist.”
Well, we are undoubtedly a nation of immigrants in a historical sense. But over the past century it hasn’t been nearly as true as the pro-amnesty faction would have you believe. Let’s take a quick look at the history of immigration.
The plot below shows the number of foreign-born people residing in the US (click on the graph for a better view). This includes both legal and illegal residents. As you can see, the total number of foreign-born residents stayed fairly constant from 1910 to 1970, even as the population of the US doubled. The foreign-born percentage of the total population dropped to just under 5% by 1970. Today it stands at roughly 12.5%.
Pre-1970 America is what many of us were born to and raised in . . . an America that was successfully assimilating a modest influx of immigrants (probably a little too modest, actually), and which was suffering from a very mild version of today’s balkanization and illegal immigration problems. As the chart shows, that all changed once the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed (thanks, Ted Kennedy!). The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (Reagan’s amnesty) further accelerated the rate of foreign-born population growth.
The Bottom Line. The history of America from 1910 to 1970 was not that of an “immigrant nation” – in fact, one could argue that the US stopped being a “nation of immigrants” after the last immigration surge in 1910. And of course, there is a limit to how much any mature nation can continue to call itself a “nation of immigrants.”
Pro-immigration pundits are calling upon a century-old meme to rationalize the out-of-control immigration situation we have today.