Saturday, July 5, 2008

American Anti-Immigration Fervor as Old as Benjamin Franklin

Some people view America's immigration scenario with trepidation; others with resigned acceptance; and others with open arms and optimism. While it is easy to write off the Minutemen and others as ignorant rednecks, none other than Benjamin Franklin expressed unease at immigration into America. Mr. Franklin was concerned about Germans. My point in sharing his letter and concern is to show that every single wave of new immigration brings fear, even to educated people, but years later, such fear is always forgotten. America's ability to incorporate all manners of people has been absolutely stunning and most likely the key to our success.

"Inconveniences may one day arise among us. Those [immigrants] who come hither are generally of the most ignorant, stupid sort of their own Nation... [F]ew of the English understand the German language; and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit... Few of their children in the country learn English...they will soon so outnumber us, that all the advantages we have, will not, in my opinion, be able to preserve our Language and even our Government will become precarious."

Mr. Franklin shows some humanity at the end of his letter when he says, "I say I am not against the admission of Germans in general for they have their Virtues; their Industry, and Frugality is exemplary." Do those traits remind anyone of the current crop of immigrants?

I still say Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase was the single greatest achievement in American history--for what good is the Constitution without a large canvas for its implementation? America's vast landscape has allowed and will continue to allow more immigration for many more decades. The major issue is not whether America needs more immigrants--it has always had them--but how we can incorporate new immigrants and minimize wage losses in the industries they impact.

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