The controversy over immigration has typically overlooked the political purpose of immigration: to supply citizens who will cherish and uphold the American Founding principles of equality and liberty, of government by consent and the rule of law.
Founding a new nation and then perpetuating it are the two greatest challenges of statesmen. Part of that task of perpetuation—and Abraham Lincoln reminded us that it can be a more difficult task than founding—is creating new citizens. In the United States this has involved turning immigrants into citizens. Thus, Jefferson, whose Declaration of Independence did more than any other document to make America a nation of immigrants, warned against accepting immigrants who would bring with them anti-republican principles from the Old World. This was in keeping with the need to protect the unique achievement of the American Founding.
But is American constitutional government any more secure now than it was at the time of the founding? A bizarre understanding of civil liberties that makes the pledge of allegiance to the flag a violation of the Constitution, the deterioration of the separation of powers, the rise of bureaucracy both nationally and locally, the historical illiteracy of younger Americans, and much more all make us wonder. Immigration is another policy that arouses such passions by raising fundamental questions about American identity.
Americans have pride in being from "the old country" and also in being "descended from someone on the Mayflower." For example, the 1940 movie Knute Rockne, All American should be viewed not...