Sunday, September 06, 2015

Leveraging Reality

The names, faces, and dates may be different, but some things never change.  

Since the founding of our Republic, there have been more than 75 separate Acts of Congress, Treaties, Presidential Executive Actions, and Supreme Court Decisions regarding immigration and citizenship naturalization.

Seriously.  Seventy-five.

Curiously enough, the crafters of the United States Constitution, though they constructed one of the greatest blueprints for self- governance and protection of individual natural rights ever devised by man, left mostly silent any reference to controlling immigration into the sovereign territory of the United States.

Granted, Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 granted Congress the power to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization...," but the issue of controlling immigration at that point in the history of our young nation was more about ensuring that new members of American society were loyal to the United States and not closet enemies still owing allegiance to some European crown.

At the birth of our nation, the founding fathers saw every reason in the world to encourage immigration by any and all (and by "any and all" the Colonel means Northern European) who would join in the republican (little "r") experiment and swell the ranks of liberty lovers.  

There was land to settle.

There were enemy tribes to defend against and subdue.

There was subdued tribes' land to settle. 

There were dynastic European empires still seeking to control the continent and prevent American expansion.    

There were cities to build and canals to dig.

As early as 1790, the Congress asserted its Constitutional powers over naturalization, setting in law the requirements for becoming a citizen of the United States.  All one (as long as "one" was male, white, and free) needed to do was reside in the United States for two years, present oneself to "any Common Law Court of Record" in any state in which one had resided for at least one year and swear an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States.  

A quarter century later, famine in Ireland, and political repression in Germany, spurred the first great wave of immigration with which the United States had to deal.

Although there was significant nativist backlash to the millions of Irish and Germans pouring ashore in the first half of the 19th Century, by and large their addition to American society was a net positive to the expanding nation.  Irish laborers built cities and railroads.  German farmers spread west and tamed land for agriculture to feed the masses back East.

Both the private and public sector took advantage of this Celtic/Teutonic tide.  

Industry exploded with cheap labor.

Corrupt politicians (the Colonel apologizes for the redundancy of terms) bought votes from the new immigrants by bribing judges to issue citizenship papers on men who, in some cases, were still reeling with sea legs.  Political machines controlling major cities thumbed their noses at the Constitution and Federal law with impunity. 

War affected the nature of citizenship in the United States and influenced attitudes toward immigration, as well.

The 1849 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, concluding the War with Mexico, granted citizenship to 80,000 Mexicans living in the territory ceded to the United States.  The Gold Rush of that same year made them the minority, overnight.   

When it became obvious in the North that the Civil War was not going to be won by a few quick battles, Union war planners leveraged their immigrant manpower advantage.  By the end of the war nearly 1 out of every 4 Union soldiers spoke German as his native tongue, and cheap immigrant labor manned the forges of military might.

After the Civil War, the building of transcontinental, and regional, railroads demanded manpower for which immigrant labor was tailor-made.  Irish laborers laid rail westward.  Chinese immigrants (many victims of human trafficking not much less inhumane than African slavery) laid rail eastward.

So many Chinese flooded the labor markets on the West Coast that Congress passed a law in 1880 suspending all Chinese immigration. Although initially effective, the "illegal immigration" from China to America soon returned to previous levels and continues unabated to this day, despite dozens of laws passed to "control" Chinese immigration over the last 135 years.  

For half a century after 1880, political and religious repression, war, and famine in Eastern and Southern Europe spurred a huge explosion of emigration in search of liberty, security, and a chance for prosperity.  The United States, alone, held the only sure hope. Immigration from Europe to America averaged over a half-million people a year for the period 1880 to 1924 -- totalling 25 million in 44 years.  

As this "Great Wave" of European immigration came ashore on the East Coast, another wave began to grow to the South.

The security and economic crisis caused by the 1910 Mexican Revolution drove thousands north for safety and prosperity.  There was both farm and industry work north of the Rio Grande, and when the United States entered World War I in 1917 the need for Mexican labor increased significantly to fill the void left by a million American men mustered to fight the Kaiser.

That same manpower need happened again when the United States entered WWII and in 1943 the United States and Mexico agreed to a "temporary" program known as the Bracero Program, whereby both nations organized and controlled migrant workers (known as "Braceros") who provided replacement labor as American men mustered to fight Tojo and the Fuhrer.  The Bracero program was so successful and so beneficial to both nations that it continued for nearly two decades after the war ended.  A whole generation of migrant workers from Mexico (five million over the 22 years of the program) established a pattern that exists to this day, regardless the immigration debate.    

Over the course of the 20th Century, and into the first two decades of the 21st, Presidents, the Congress, and the Courts have wrestled with the issue of immigration.  Most legislation or executive actions have been effective only in that they served to pander to constituencies. 

Cities now openly flaunt their disregard for the Federal government and the laws of the land with regard to immigration -- "Sanctuary Cities" being only the latest manifestation of a political phenomenon that is as old as the Republic.

"A" solution to the current illegal immigration crisis is, certainly, to elect politicians who will enforce the laws on the books, seal our borders, and send the illegals home -- whether that home is Mexico, Russia, or China.  The Colonel would argue that the United States has been encouraging this illegal immigration, at least tacitly, all along and that to renege, if you will, is at least "bad form."

Another solution, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is blanket amnesty.  Easiest "solution," but not necessarily a fix to the long-term problem.  That just encourages more of the same.

We'll probably end up doing something that will be less of a compromise and more like kissing your sister.  Unless you're from Alabama, where family reunions are great places to pick up chicks.

Just kidding -- love you guys... mean it... War Tide; Roll Eagle.

Obligatory swipe at Alabama aside, the politicians ain't gonna "fix" this problem.  They never have.   The "non-politician" politicians won't either.  They never have.   

The Colonel hates to sound like a broken record, but the solution that best leverages the reality of the situation is the one that uses the manpower of the rest of the hemisphere to our advantage.

Expand the Republic.  


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