We won our independence as a nation with 3 million Americans. Today we are the freest, richest and most powerful nation in the world with more than 300 million Americans. Immigration made us strong. Powerful. Economically dynamic. Growing.
If we were limited to just those born of the 3 million, we would never have filled the continent. Never become strong enough to stand alone and free. Immigration built this nation. Is this nation.
What is America? Are we all adherents of one religion? No. There is no state church, temple or mosque. Are we one race or ethnicity like the Germans or Greeks? Never. Not now and not from the start when people from many nations filled the 13 Colonies.
America is a people of the book, the Constitution. Your passport to being an American is your commitment to liberty and the government structures designed by the Constitution to protect that liberty.
Every generation has had its failure to recognize this. The president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, once told Leo Crowley, a Catholic, “Leo, this is a Protestant country, and the Catholics and the Jews are here on sufferance. It is up to both of you (he was referring also to Henry Morgenthau, his Jewish secretary of the Treasury) to go along with anything that I want at this time.” Roosevelt was very wrong.
All names are American names.
Everyone agrees that immigration made America great, prosperous and strong. Our great-grandparents may have whined about the newest immigrants, but our grandparents and parents married them, and they are us and we are them. We know America was blessed by the wave of immigrants “back then.” Yet some with 20/20 hindsight cannot see the future unfolding ahead of us.
Not too long ago, we were told that Japan was No. 1. America’s best days were behind her. Now we hear that China will soon pass us by. Nonsense. Because we do immigration better than other nations, we control our destiny. Japan and Germany are already declining in population. Culturally, they do not do immigration well. Failure to welcome immigration is a stunting disease in any nation. China has many people today, but it decided to enforce a one-child-per-couple policy and for cultural reasons does not absorb immigrants well. Other nations might welcome immigrants, but they are not governed in a way that makes them the preferred destinations for most immigrants.
The best talent in the world would like to work in America. The hardest-working young men and women see their best futures with us. Kind of like our grandparents. Immigrants will tell you America did them a great favor by accepting them. Looking back, we know the immigrants, their hard work and dedication, and their children were gifts to our nation and its future. They manned our armed forces and filled our engineering schools and science labs.
Once again, the American people are debating how many immigrants we should welcome. Polls show that majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Americans at large support comprehensive immigration reform and see immigration as a net benefit to our nation. Yet some loud voices confuse some in the media. The labor unions and radical environmentalists and zero population growth advocates have argued that more people would make us poorer. But America knows that people are resources, not costs. Men and women produce as well as consume. We celebrate births and mourn at funerals.
America alone could decide next year to bring 1 million engineers to our shores or 1 million 20-year-olds filled with energy and love of liberty. There are many sources of energy. We can drill and frack for oil and natural gas here in America or we can leave the oil underground as President Obama and congressional Democrats have demanded in Alaska and off our coasts. Immigrants can join our nation and make us stronger, or our immigration laws can strand them overseas in nations whose laws and traditions keep them from prospering and producing.
It is time to reform our immigration laws step by step or in one comprehensive package. Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress have a problem. They spent 2009 and 2010 with supermajorities in the House and Senate and did nothing to reform immigration. The union bosses stopped them as they did in 2007 when Robert Novak reported that Sen. Obama was their messenger, telling the Senate that President Bush’s immigration reform was dead.
Immigration reform is an easier call for Republicans. The communities of faith, the business community and registered Republicans at the grass-roots level all support comprehensive reform. The Southern Baptists, the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church and the Jewish groups are in. So are the Chamber of Commerce, the farmers, ranchers, dairy owners, and high-tech, small and large companies. Pro-lifers know that people are assets, not liabilities. Free-market Republicans know that more people produce more wealth.
The time to win the future is now.
• Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.