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Is opposing illegal alien amnesty really worth it?

Written By | May 27, 2014

OCALA, Fla., May 27, 2014 — America is a country unlike any other. This all of us know very well. What few ask, though, is why.

Above all else, the uniqueness of the United States can be boiled down to its focus on concepts and ideas as opposed to the current fixation on what we now call “ethnicity” or religious background. Of course, ours was not a “proposition nation” from the start, as many neoconservatives and neoliberals like to claim. In 1790, Congress passed the Naturalization Act, which limited citizenship to “free white persons” of “good character.”

Still, character counted in ways that it never did in the Old Country. This spoke to America’s drive for personal liberty rather than authoritarianism, and its focus on individual merit in lieu of tribal identity.

READ ALSO: The real U.S. immigration issue: Blue Staters fleeing to Red

The reason white nationalism never took off on a national level is because ancestry was traditionally regarded as but a single factor in determining one’s worth. While in all too many cases it counted for more than it should have, the lack of emphasis on the matter could hardly be paralleled elsewhere.

Today, anyone of any race or ethnicity can immigrate to the U.S. legally and set foot on a pathway to citizenship. Merit, however, no longer counts for much. Since chain migration took off in the mid-20th century, personal accomplishment has been replaced with an emphasis on ancestry. Sadly though not unpredictably, tribalism has made a comeback that is still going strong.

Last year, Temple University Professor Jan C. Ting, who served as Assistant Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under George H. W. Bush, told me that “(w)e have to confront the basic choice which we have been studiously and deliberately avoiding: Do we want to enforce a numerical limit on immigration or not?

“Enforcing a numerical limit is hard,” he continued. “It requires a never-ending discussion over what the limit should be, and who should have priority to claim the visas within the limit. It also requires us to turn away immigrants who remind us of our own ancestors, not because they’re bad people, but simply because admitting them would exceed our limit.

“If we can’t do that, we should repeal immigration laws and invite everyone in the world to move here. Immigrant criminals and national security risks should be the responsibility of the FBI. We can save billions of taxpayer dollars now spent on immigration enforcement.”

Yet, America’s immigration policies are the subject of much more than dollars and cents.

READ ALSO: Republicans should leave immigration alone, focus on Obamacare

“For NPG, immigration is strictly about the numbers,” Craig Lewis, the executive director of Negative Population Growth, also explained to me last year. “It is not a leading contributor – it is THE leading contributor to our nation’s population growth. Studies have shown that immigration – legal, illegal, and the children born to immigrants – is responsible for 80% of U.S. population growth. America has an estimated population of over 11 million undocumented immigrants, with some estimates ranging to nearly 20 million. Each year, we permit over 1 million legal immigrants to arrive. The average immigrant family (regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, religion, or nation of origin) has more children than the average American-born citizen – and the children of those immigrants also tend to have larger families.

“The fact is simple: the United States must slow, halt, and eventually reverse our population growth to preserve an enjoyable quality of life for future generations. To do so, we must reduce our immigration levels.”

Exactly how this might be done stands a matter complicated as it is controversial.

“I would advise Congress to understand that we have to enforce a numerical limit on immigration, even if that requires us to deny admission to would-be immigrants who resemble our own ancestors, who are neither criminals nor national security risks, and who only want a shot at the American dream to try to build a better life for themselves and their families,” Ting said. “And if they come in violation of our numerical limit, we have to deport them.

“If we can’t bring ourselves to say no to such people,” he continues, “then no limit on immigration is enforcible, and we might as well not have one at all, declare the borders open, and let everyone who wants to (who’s neither a criminal or national security risk) settle in the U.S.A.

“We know from the 1986 amnesty and immigration deal that border enforcement alone is insufficient. Border enforcement coupled with employer sanctions and threatening employers who hire immigration law violators is insufficient. We need a system where would-be immigration law violators understand that the costs of violating our laws exceed the potential benefits.”

Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto is a nationally syndicated columnist. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he wrote for The Washington Times Communities and Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications.