Have Immigrants Made America Great?

Scripps-Howard News Service 5.01.02
Balint Vazsonyi

At last a topic, I thought, for which my credentials are impeccable. But no. The great debate about immigration is going the way of our other great debates - emotions trump facts, logic, and the law.

The following conversation occurred at a week-end get-together, one of many across America where - it may be safely assumed - similar exchanges take place.

"There is this wonderful Brazilian woman I met in New York," exclaimed the lady who had just shown us the multi-million dollar art collection in her ground-floor maisonette. "She was there illegally and had to leave. After returning to Brazil, she heard of an organization constantly ferrying human cargo into the United States from Peru. She went to Peru but didn't make the grade. Then she heard of some Mexicans doing it, shot up to the border and, in a matter of weeks, she was back in New York. She is so happy to be in America! She loves it here. Isn't that a wonderful story?" With that, the lady reached for another smoked salmon canapé.

"And the fact that she continues to break the law in order to be here does not bother you at all?" I found myself asking.

What followed was a lecture by the lady, seconded by a well-educated gentlemen of the Left, about all the jobs "Americans are no longer prepared to do," and how "our national survival depends on illegal immigrants."

Many decent people who are informed by their emotions think of the welfare state, and all its consequences, as the kind of approach decent people devise in order to assist the less fortunate. Would they be willing to engage their brains for an occasional discussion of reality? Who knows.

Given what we read every day about young people who join gangs and peddle dope "because they have no prospects," it should be obvious that the welfare state causes one to rely on the money others have earned, as opposed to performing services for which society is prepared to pay. That's Step One. Step Two: the excuse to tolerate the presence of lawbreakers so that "the jobs get done." Step Three: the lawbreakers demand welfare benefits so that they, too, can participate in the fruits of other people's labor. Step Four: the welfare supporters enact laws that attract illegal immigrants by offering a) no penalty, even reward, for illegal entry and b) welfare benefits for lawbreakers.

But all that is but one aspect of the debate about immigration. Another is whether immigrants have made America great?

Without a doubt, everyone who has come here to work hard, and to comprehend, preserve, protect and defend our Constitution has contributed to America's success.

But America's greatness was established between 1776 and 1791 by that unique group of men we know as the Founding Fathers. After that, there was nothing to add, only to take away.

Immigrants came here, and were able to thrive here, because the Founders established a supreme law that was fair; a political structure that ensured peaceful transition of power; and an economic model that gave everyone a chance.

Every time we countenance breaking the law, we diminish the opportunity for the legitimate immigrants of the future to be self-reliant. Most immigrants arrive from lawless countries. They need to be motivated to live under the law. They need to be encouraged to work toward self-reliance under the law. They need to realize that the rule of law and self-reliance are inseparable in the long run.

Self-government was the great design of the Founders. But without self-reliance, there is no self-government.

And self-reliance requires a legal framework that guarantees peaceful enjoyment of the fruits of one's labor. The role of government is to enforce the laws upon which that guarantee rests. What kind of example is being set by Americans who break the law every time they pay a newcomer?

Among laws, the ones governing the admission of newcomers to the large community we call nation is of exceptional importance. What happens when it breaks down, we all found out on September 11, 2001. Meanwhile, false prophets are citing the telephone, rocket science, or the Salk serum - contributions by immigrants that may be one in ten million - in order to promote an essentially open border policy.

Our borders cannot remain open if we wish this nation to survive. Doors may be opened for those to whom we extend our proper welcome. That welcome is a contract. In return for the opportunity to live in America, newcomers must enter legally, arrive ready to offer their undivided allegiance to America - its principles, its laws - and to serve the more perfect union the Founding Fathers devoted their lives to create.