Alex Nowrasteh

The standard caveat issued by those who advocate tight immigration restrictions is that while they support legal immigration, they want to crack down on unauthorized immigration. Now, some immigration restrictionists are taking it a step further in opposing even legal immigration.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has sponsored a pledge for political candidates to oppose legal immigration as well as amnesty for unauthorized immigrants. FAIR’s pledge has already garnered some signatories like Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel (R) and Nebraska Senatorial primary candidate Shane Osborn (R) who failed to ride the supposed anti-immigration polls into elected office.

American principles implore us to oppose such an anti-immigration pledge. Indeed, one of King George III’s many “injuries and usurpations” listed in the Declaration of Independence was “obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners” and “refusing to pass others to encourage their migration.”

The very first Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1790, which had zero restrictions on immigration. You read that right: the first immigration law passed in the United States, by many of the framers themselves, supported open immigration. It shamefully restricted citizenship to white residents, thus excluding indentured servants, slaves, and former slaves, but there were no restrictions on who could come here and work.

Restrictions on naturalization were soon loosened even further. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution granted citizenship to freed slaves and their descendants and effectively extended citizenship to all children of non-naturalized immigrants regardless of race.. Finally, in 1898 the Supreme Court ruled, in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, that all children of immigrants born under U.S. jurisdiction were citizens regardless of race.


Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.