Too many Americans hold to a romantic view of immigration that has something to do with Ellis Island a hundred years ago, and some words inscribed on “Lady Liberty.” But a bad poem on an old French statue is not a sound immigration policy. And in any case, it is simply untrue that America has always allowed unfettered immigration to its shores.
Donald Trump endures harsh criticism from these people, especially now that he is calling for “extreme vetting” of would-be Muslim newcomers. But his critics are the ones who are ignorant of history. At Politico, Professor George J. Borjas of Harvard Kennedy School explains that the United States has screened immigrants throughout its history, for good reason:
Since before the founding even, U.S. policies about whom the country chooses to welcome and reject have changed in response to changing conditions. As early as 1645, the Massachusetts Bay Colony prohibited the entry of poor or indigent persons. By the early 20th century, the country was filtering out people who had “undesirable” traits, such as epileptics, alcoholics and polygamists. Today, the naturalization oath demands that immigrants renounce allegiance to any foreign state. Even our Favorite Founding Father du jour, Alexander Hamilton (himself an immigrant), thought it was important to scrutinize whoever came to the United States.
Hilariously, the quotation Borjas then attributes to Hamilton will outrage those liberals who have embraced that Founding Father as a champion of multiculturalism, having paid thousands of dollars to watch the Broadway musical that bears his name.
Then Borjas quotes the entire oath that immigrants already recite at their naturalization ceremony, which would certainly disqualify every radical Muslim who believes in Sharia and Islamic supremacy.
I doubt that the 9/11 terrorists admitted in their applications for foreign student visas that they planned to use their flight training to fly planes into the World Trade Center. But the fact that such filtering is far from perfect does not imply that we should not have any filters whatsoever. If nothing else, the perjury in the visa application gives the government an easy way for detaining and deporting dangerous immigrants living in our midst, even after they become American citizens.
Borjas concludes by saying “given the mess the world is in—it is the notion that we should not vet immigrants more carefully that is certifiably insane.” Let’s hope this particular professor has tenure. He may not be very popular with the faculty and students after they read this essay.