HOW POROUS SHOULD AMERICA'S BORDERS BE?
THOMAS JEFFERSON'S THOUGHTS ON IMMIGRATION
By Steven M. Farrell
President Thomas Jefferson, a descendent of immigrants, presiding over a nation of immigrants, thought so. In his first annual message, dated, December 8, 1801, he asked of those who thought to impose an extremely arduous course to citizenship for the im- migrant (a 14 years residency requirement), a few probing questions:
The advocates of today's liberal immigration policies, or of far more radical proposals for open borders, might feel inclined to thus quote Jefferson, and feel justified.
Yet they had better do so with caution. President Jefferson also suggested that America balance her open arm policy "with restrictions, perhaps, to guard against the fraudulent usurpation of our flag; an abuse which brings so much embarrassment and loss on the genuine citizen, and so much danger to the nation of being involved in war".
"[N]o endeavor", he said, "should be spared to detect and suppress" this sort of im- migrant. (2) So much for blind liberality. Not every immigrant is a friend of America. Jefferson was no fool. He had other concerns too.
In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), Jefferson reflects:
Jefferson warns, nearly prophetically:
There is theory; and then there is reality. Jefferson was schooled in both. He knew that, to every liberal law, there were some reasonable limits.
We need artisans, he admitted, but not enemies. We want true freedom seekers to come, but without "extraordinary encouragements." (5)
What would Thomas Jefferson, therefore, think of an immigration policy today that, with flashing lights invites the non-working masses of the world to come--to come from countries that hate us, to a feast of "free" food, "free" health care, "free" education, "free" social security benefits, and free and instant voter registration cards? It is hard to see Jefferson calling it anything but extraordinarily unwise, and extraordinarily rev- olutionary. Jefferson would have proposed something better--a policy liberal in its ex- tension of the blessings of liberty to those who desired it, and conservative in its eco- nomic and political common sense.
1. Bergh, Albert Ellery, Editor. "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson," Volume 3, p. 338.
2. Ibid., pgs. 338-339.
3. Bergh, Volume 2, p. 120.
4. Ibid., p. 121. 5. Ibid.
Still More on the Immigration Issue
Steven M. Farrell is Associate Professor of Political Economy at George Wythe College, a columnist and pundit for NewsMax and the Sierra Times, a widely published research writer, the former managing editor of Right Magazine, and the author of two books--one an inspirational novel, Dark Rose, and the other a non-fiction work, God and the Gavel, which explores that difficult question, ‘What is the proper role of religion and morality in public life?’
Prior to his career in writing, Steve served 12 years in the United States Air Force as a communications security manager and controller, received a bachelors degree from the University of New York’s, Regents College (now Excelsior), worked four years in the public school system, and spent ten years in direct sales.
One of the more popular columnists on the Internet, Steve is best known for his faithful and thoughtful defenses of the United States Constitution, Judeo-Christian morality, and honest-to-goodness, non-partisan politics.
Residing in Henderson, Nevada, Farrell is available for interviews and speaking engagements.
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