Every year around Thanksgiving my liberal friends post to their facebook walls little memes about native Americans building a wall to keep out the pilgrims or otherwise mocking concerns about our porous borders. This has always struck me as a strange historical parallel for the open-borders crowd to draw. It’s not as if things went swimmingly well for the native inhabitants of this area after the massive immigration from Europe.
My wife and I recently had the privilege of taking our children to see the Alamo. In the original barracks building there’s an interesting display on the history leading up to the Texas Revolution:
“Desperate to turn the [ecomonic] situation around, the [Mexico’s] leaders turned to immigration from the United States as a way to bolster Texas’ dwindling population… Although the system got off to a good start, the sheer number of Americans wanting to move to Texas quickly overwhelmed the Mexican territory. Within a space of only five years, from 1823 to 1828, the immigrant population had grown from about 500 to more than 30,000. Problems for both the colonists and the Mexican government lay ahead… On April 6, 1830 the Mexican government attempted to stop the flood of immigration by prohibiting the settlement of emigrants from the United States. The result only fueled the flame of revolution in Texas.”
Immigration is a serious matter and it is not racist to say so. If too many people come too quickly to a particular piece of land they will not assimilate with the culture that was there before them and they may very well take that land or, at the very least, radically change its culture to make it more like the place they came from. There are many instances throughout history besides just the two above when excessive immigration has cost the native population their fortunes and/or their lives. This risk is a well established historical fact regardless of the origin or skin tone of the immigrants in question.
As I wrote in my last column the gravity of the matter does not excuse unkindness to the immigrants living among us. It does not excuse the type of hateful rhetoric (and brutality) that has been aimed at Irish Catholic immigrants, Italian Catholic immigrants, Mexican Catholic immigrants, Jewish immigrants, Japenese immigrants, African Muslim immigrants and Arab Muslim immigrants (to name just a few).
But the historical record on immigration does compel a serious political conversation about how many immigrants may be safely brought into the country and about where they may safely be brought from. Racist, bigoted jingoistic diatribes against those who favor more open borders are obviously unhelpful to the conversation but so too are knee jerk accusations of racism against anyone who favors a more closed border.
An argument can certainly be had about how close this country is to the type of demographic tipping point reached on the east coast during the 1600s or in Texas during the 1800s. But that argument can only be made in a conversation that is allowed to happen without the questioning of immigration being immediately condemned as racist/bigoted.
If you benefit economically from a growing population then it is obviously easier and safer to simply dismiss those concerned with immigration as racist rather than to engage them in a serious discussion. If you find that those advocating for more restrictions on immigration are over-represented in the political party you oppose then it is, again, easier and safer to brand them as jingoistic than it is to fairly represent and respond to their concerns.
But if you can muster the courage to engage in the conversation honestly and acknowledge the seriousness of immigration then you’ll be doing a great act of kindness both to immigrants and to your fellow citizens.