America's Founders also were concerned with properly assimilating immigrants so that their presence would be positive upon the culture. George Washington wrote, "By an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people." Thomas Jefferson, hailed as one of the most inclusive among the Founders, worried that some immigrants would leave more restrictive governments and not be able to handle American freedoms, leading to cultural corruption and "an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their number, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass." And Alexander Hamilton insisted that "the safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of citizens from foreign bias and prejudice; and on the love of country, which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education, and family."
According to the Declaration of Independence, "obstructing the Laws for the Naturalization of Foreigners" was one of the objections leveled against Britain that warranted the American colonists' seceding. Yet even the Founders themselves believed that a total open-door policy for immigrants would only lead to complete community and cultural chaos.
We are discussing and debating new ways to resolve the social crisis we call illegal immigration, but our Founders pointed the way more than 200 years ago. Like enrolling in an Ivy League school, American citizenship was considered and promoted by them as a high honor. James Madison shared the collective sentiment back then when he stated, "I do not wish that any man should acquire the privilege, but such as would be a real addition to the wealth or strength of the United States." Hence, they processed applicants and selected only the ones who would contribute to the building up and advancement of their grand experiment called America.
Therefore, our Founders enforced four basic requirements for "enrollment and acceptance" into American citizenry. We still utilize them (at least in policy) to this day, but we desperately need to enforce them. The Heritage Foundation summarizes: "Key criteria for citizenship of the Naturalization Act of 1795 remain part of American law. These include (1) five years of (lawful) residence within the United States; (2) a 'good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States'; (3) the taking of a formal oath to support the Constitution and to renounce any foreign allegiance; and (4) the renunciation of any hereditary titles."
Just think if such immigration tenets were taught in schools such as Live Oak High School, in Northern California, where kids are confused about allegiances to flags and countries. And just think if the federal government actually enforced such tenets! Arizona and the 10 other states following suit wouldn't even need to go out on a limb and create their own immigration laws as states did prior to our Constitution. If we held citizenship in the same high esteem as our Founders and simply enforced the laws we already have, we wouldn't be in this illegal immigration pickle today. Next week, Chuck will lay out his plan, drawing inspiration from our Founders, for dealing with the 12 million-plus illegal immigrants in our country today.