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Progressivism Makes Immigrants Unwelcome

Last week President Obama gave a speech to newly naturalized citizens at the National Archives. His remarks show why immigration, long rightly praised as an essential part of our heritage, has become a source of ever greater controversy. The President failed to acknowledge that it is the principles of limited government and individual rights that make United States a welcoming place for immigrants because they assure that newcomers cannot tip the political balance to make life worse for those already here.

Instead, the President celebrated the raw power of democracy to make “progress,” change that can come at the expense of long time residents.The President did suggest that one of the “binding forces” for America is “loyalty” to “the documents” that surrounded the new citizens at the Archives. But he never identified these documents by name, quoted any language from them, or explained why they have an enduring claim on our loyalty. In particular, President Obama cited almost none of the liberties protected by the Constitution and nothing of the structure of federalism and separation of powers that protects those liberties.

It is hard to believe this was mere oversight. His administration has notably failed to defend both the structure and rights that are actually in the Constitution. For instance, the enumerated powers constitute a fundamental tenet of the Constitution, but the Affordable Care Act was an unprecedented expansion of the Commerce Clause to permit the federal government to order citizens to buy goods and services. Religious liberty is an essential right, but President Obama’s administration argued this liberty did not protect the freedom of religious organizations even to fire their own ministers—a position unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court. On the issue of immigration itself, the President has skirted the separation of powers by unilaterally giving work permits to people whom the law says are here illegally.

Significantly, in fact, his speech dwells on only two rights: the right to criticize the government and the right to vote. These are quintessentially the rights of political action. For President Obama, these are the rights that help us make continual progress, that these documents have “inspired” as he puts it. Under the President’s view, what is central to America is not a set of rights beyond ordinary politics, but the power of ordinary politics at the federal level to transform the nation even without a constitutional amendment. It is a classic formulation of Progressivism—a creed that does not see the Constitution as the anchor for a fixed set of liberties protected through its system of checks and balances.

While the President’s speech was meant to make new immigrants feel immediately at home, the political dynamic that he extolled explains why many Americans fear immigration. If the Progressive agenda can erode the original meaning of the Constitution, immigration creates political risk for the current citizens. If new voters can help elect administrations that will trample on property rights and expand federal power to transfer resources, some current Americans will be made worse off. If these new voters become part of a coalition of racial and ethnic minorities to demand preferential treatment, many Americans will worry for their own children’s future.

The dissolution of restraints on government naturally creates polarization over immigration because it allows people to view newcomers as potential voters who may impose exactions on others rather than as citizens in a commercial republic who will promote the general welfare through their individual pursuit of happiness. While many complain about the attitude of Republican presidential candidates toward immigrants, it is President Obama and Progressivism more generally that have created a far less welcoming climate.

Reader Discussion

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on December 23, 2015 at 09:48:41 am

As for me, I prefer Professor Kevin Hardwicks address to new citizens, published some time back on this site!

Obama's version reflects the community activists view of liberty!

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gabe
on December 23, 2015 at 17:32:54 pm

Xenophobic conservatives are xenophobic conservatives because they don't like inmigrants, not because President Obama doesn't mention federalism in speeches.

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Image of Aaron J
Aaron J
on December 23, 2015 at 18:03:37 pm

McGinnis has a fair point: To the extent that we have redistributionist policies, people have a greater interest in policing who comes in and who doesn't.

But we've always had redistributionist policies. So long as we have public sidewalks, permitting more people into the country will lead to more congestion on the sidewalk. Aha, a policy that burdens me for the benefit of an immigrant! Stone them! Stone them!

And the suggestion Obama's policies have had any measurable effect on people's aversion to immigrants is surpassing silly. Does McGinnis really share the public aversion to immigration -- when that aversion arises from racism? Or how about when it arises from a concern about competition for jobs? I suspect McGinnis's foray into populism will be a rather short trip.

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nobody.really
on December 23, 2015 at 18:31:23 pm

Well, how about if it arises from a concern for security? or the maintenance of cultural cohesiveness - and, no, don't give that argument that such a concern is based upon an underlying predicate of racism.

It is not!

Then again, let us suppose for the purposes of argument that the concern is so predicated! So what! Would it not also be true that those emigrating to our shores are also guilty of the same affliction. i.e., that they wish to maintain their cultural, ethnic or racial identity?

So who shall prevail. I recall the old phrase, "When in Rome...." or as I like to say, " If I am feeding you dinner, you will be happy with lentil soup - just like me."

Enjoy the holidays, and maintain the sense of humor, my friend!

gabe

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gabe
on December 23, 2015 at 22:37:31 pm

My point is not to praise or disparage anyone's reasons for opposing immigration. My point is that McGinnis's claim -- "the political dynamic that [Obama] extolled explains why many Americans fear immigration" -- is contrived and exaggerated. Opposition to immigration arises from many reasons that have nothing to do with McGinnis's argument -- and for reasons that McGinnis would actually oppose.

In short, it's disingenuous for McGinnis to feign solidarity with people who oppose immigration, or to suggest that the strength of this opposition is a measure of the support for McGinnis's argument.

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nobody.really
on December 24, 2015 at 10:53:52 am

Ok, fair enough as an examination of the strength of McGinnis argument.
The reasons are many and pre-date the Big O's follies.

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gabe
on December 24, 2015 at 13:01:41 pm

"Progressivism Makes Immigrants Unwelcome"

Funny, if the immigrants do feel "unwelcome" because of contemporary America's progressivism, it doesn't seem to stop them from coming.

If I really thought that progressivism would discourage immigrants whom the United States does not need from coming here, I might be in favor of doubling down on it. Alas, our progressivism is a large part of the reason unskilled immigrants do come (and, yes, the immigrants who take jobs from American citizens also are attracted by the welfare benefits and public services they can take advantage of here).

The writing on this blog is increasingly untethered to reality.

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djf
on December 24, 2015 at 17:23:06 pm

Good point! _ progressivism DOES not prevent them from coming or erecting any obstacles to their desire to come.

In fairness, McGinnis was making the same points you raised albeit from a different angle. It is progressive policies that induce in current citizens a resentment (not without foundation, I would add) toward new arrivals due to either economic, security or cultural concerns - not the least of which is the Progressive unwavering belief in "multiculturalism" contrary to ample evidence that is a failed and dangerous prescription.

Anyway, djf

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, if you prefer

gabe

BTW: good stuff at POMOCON

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gabe
on December 24, 2015 at 21:15:02 pm

Gabe, yes, McGinnis's assertion that the welfare state causing Americans to resent immigrants is a hackneyed libertarian talking point that I've heard many times before. My point is that all this purported lack of "welcome" for the immigrants apparently has no effect on them, since they keep coming. So why should the leftists - whom McGinnis is presumably trying to persuade to reconsider endless expansion of the welfare state - give a hoot about the ineffectual resentment of people whom they consider troglodytes? The way libertarians keep trying to find ways to convince leftists that libertarianism is "cool" is just pathetic.

In any event, the effects of immigration are not limited to the strain they put on the welfare state. To take one obvious example, what effect do you think importing millions of poor people into the country has on the cost of housing? Last time I checked, land is one thing we're not creating any more of.

Thank you for the kind seasonal wishes and the compliment on my scribblings at PomoCon. Since I gather you celebrate, Merry Christmas to you and yours. Best, DJF

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djf
on December 25, 2015 at 06:59:06 am

Another piece of masturbatory nonsense from the commentariat class of masturbators. If you think immigration is all the United States is all about, you are sadly lacking in history knowledge.

The will of the public will be done and the majority of Americans want reduced legal immigration and deportation for illegal immigrants. Get it?

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GSR
on December 25, 2015 at 10:19:27 am

Suddenly seeing things so black-and-white AJ? Or have you always been such a rigid thinker when it comes to categorizing those with whom you disagree?

While I do think we conservatives need to own and mitigate whatever degree of xenophobia has crept in to our psyche, I've thought this same thing for a while now. It's not that we tend to be overly mistrusting of foreigners per sa, it's just that it seems to many of us they have been recruited and are being used to transform American culture away from the Freedom-Opportunity culture our recent ancestors forged here, into something else entirely.

So it is understandable that we are feeling protective of our culture--and that the political left would want to spotlight that as xenophobic. We need to be better at naming an promoting the Freedom-Opportunity culture so we are less afraid of losing it and more confident that it will be adopted by newcomers.

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Keith
on December 25, 2015 at 12:33:42 pm

Useful resource for this discussion, the Eagle Forum's "How Mass (Legal) Immigration Dooms A Conservative Republican Party: A comprehensive review of surveys in immigrant communities showing their support for big government" -- http://www.eagleforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014_ImmigrationBook-6-12-14.pdf

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Paul137
on December 25, 2015 at 16:49:24 pm

Things like sidewalks and paved streets are, of course, redistributionism on a small scale... but, unless distributed as a mark of political favor and disfavor, they are ideologically neutral. They are not redistributionism on the same order of magnitude as direct benefits in the form of money, goods, housing, and political preference, which are much more susceptible to political exploitation.

people have a greater interest in policing who comes in and who doesn’t

Some people have an interest in building a political base using illegal votes and government clients in ethnically and religiously divided populations as their voter base. This can be done under Progressive, populist, or ethnic spoils type ideologies. (These days, the latter is heavily driven by race based affirmative action in academia and government hiring, and is an arm of the Progressive [sic] movement.)

This movement's interest in the extent to which immigration policy, which includes where immigrants are settled, both legislatively and administratively promotes this agenda means their "interest in policing" diverges from that of those who want to limit the franchise to citizens and to make sure that immigrants are assimilated. To the extend that the Constitution impedes the Progressive agenda, well, it's a living document and you can't make an omelette...

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Peter B
on December 25, 2015 at 23:12:32 pm

I believe the first question for every potential immigrant should be, "What can you do for my country?"

We do not want those who come from countries with failed systems who want to incorporate their failed system here.

Every person on the planet does NOT have a right to live in the United States of America.

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Gary
on December 26, 2015 at 00:31:27 am

Regarding the dramatic statement that "Xenophobic conservatives are xenophobic conservatives because they don’t like inmigrants, not because President Obama doesn’t mention federalism in speeches," here are a couple of comments.

Your lib/lefty crystal ball is not working.

Our xenophobia is very simply based on the following.
1. the economic problems
a. short and longer term costs of resettling sick, ignorant people
b. we cannot afford to take care of Americans nor immigrants from the last ten years

2. in the case of the Mohammedan immigrants, it is a case of trying to mix oil and water: their blind adherence to sharia doesn't work in this country, PRECISELY BECAUSE OF THE DOCUMENTS THAT OBAMA DID NOT BOTHER MENTIONING which they are not capable of understanding, and we have seen and continue to see these ungrateful immigrants attempting to defy the brilliant system which the Founding Fathers put together and which produced the still greatest nation in the history of man

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Luis
on December 26, 2015 at 00:41:53 am

There cannot be any question that Obama did not mention the documents in the National Archives which define the constitution of the government on purpose. He has continually shown disdain for the documents by misquoting them, and worse, by ignoring them in his arrogance. He has shown disdain not only for the documents, but for the government itself by insulting the Supreme Court and the legislative branch, the latter in more ways than one. And, he has shown disdain for the United States itself, by bowing to the Saudi king and to the Japanese emperor, by continually using the "blame the US first" schtick not only within the US but also while traveling overseas.

Let's not kid ourselves, his zeal for facilitating the Mohammedan invasion is intended to change the character, the very basic nature of the US, and not for the better. The illegal aliens could be called "undocumented Democrats."

But Obama will not succeed: The US is strong and resilient and will resist to the death Obama's nonsense.

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Luis
on December 26, 2015 at 00:45:04 am

You are proving my point. You think "they are not capable of understanding" our founding documents because of their "blind adherence" to sharia law. Your prejudice/xenophobia stems from your dislike of immigrants (or belief that they cannot integrate and embrace our institutions). It has nothing to do with the content of President Obama's speeches.

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Aaron J
on December 26, 2015 at 16:09:06 pm

[…] JOHN MCGINNIS: What Makes Immigrants Unwelcome? Progressivism. […]

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Image of Instapundit » Blog Archive » JOHN MCGINNIS: What Makes Immigrants Unwelcome? Progressivism….
Instapundit » Blog Archive » JOHN MCGINNIS: What Makes Immigrants Unwelcome? Progressivism….
on December 26, 2015 at 17:02:11 pm

Aaron J is a devoted follower of the tactic that repeating lies will make them true.

He does not argue rationally, and rational dialectic argument with such people is a serious mistake - something Aristotle knew 2,500 years ago. Everyone who made that mistake has simply provided credibility to the rhetorical lie by engaging with it. Gary was the exception. Keith was the worst and most enabling example.

Newsflash: this is why little Eichmanns (to quote one semi-famous Leftist) like Aaron win, and you lose. Learn the lesson here, before you learn it in a courtroom as a lawyer. Or, if Aaron gets his way, as a defendant.

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Joe Katzman
on December 26, 2015 at 18:22:49 pm

The comments on this blog are increasingly untethered to reality.

How about some moderation for a change — as in a moderator?

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Glen
on December 26, 2015 at 18:32:02 pm

I hate leftists far more than foreigners; those two categories overlap.

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SDN
on December 26, 2015 at 19:34:42 pm

'Xenophobic' has become the new "You're a racist!!" with these 'tards.
There is no need for a civilized response with a petulant child.

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Lanceman
on December 26, 2015 at 21:19:16 pm

Like Obama you make assertions about what is in someone else's mind. The typical megalomania of the left.

Your reply to Luis demonstrates your fantasy view of the world. Luis made his point (not yours) with reasoned argument. You respond with an ad hominen attack.

So far as those mahommedans, whom you think should be welcomed, are concerned, you display not a whit of awareness of the belief system they espouse.

You cannot take the founder out of any religion. That person is the bedrock upon which it rests and genuine adherents attempt to emulate the founder. Behave like Buddha or Christ and you will hurt no one. Behave like mohammed and you will steal, rape, maim, torture, murder and destroy.

And the words he left that form the core of mohammedans' holy books exhort his followers to replicate his behavior as an order from their god. Those words make no provision for democracy or a governance constitution except sharia.

There are certainly lax mahommedans just as there are lax Catholics or Baptists. Betting the future of the country and the safety of its people on the assumption it will have only lax mahommedans is a clear demonstration of fantasy over experience.

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Bazza McKenzie
on December 27, 2015 at 01:19:27 am

To imagine that immigrants somehow don't feel "welcome" in the US, when they continue to flood into the country in immense numbers and mostly to stay here, seems to me to be disconnected from reality. Further, to believe that Americans should worry about whether immigrants are being made to feel "welcome," not what immigration policy is in the interest of the majority of existing American citizens and their descendants, is to be disconnected from any concept of the common interest of the American people.

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djf
on December 27, 2015 at 03:14:12 am

Xenophobia means "fear or hatred of foreigners." Luis and Bazza McKenzie (not Keith) have both expressed such feelings. They might argue their xenophobia is justified (and I would disagree), but xenophobia it is.

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Aaron J
on December 27, 2015 at 03:19:21 am

Please do inform me what lie I repeated, Joe.

You are directing ridiculous accusations at me (Luis as a defendant?), whereas I merely pointed out that Luis's xenophobic reply was in fact, xenophobic.

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Aaron J
on December 29, 2015 at 11:41:47 am

[…] summation of why I’ve become less enthusiastic about immigration, here and […]

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Image of Afternoon Links | Sense and Snarkability
Afternoon Links | Sense and Snarkability
on December 29, 2015 at 15:28:21 pm

[…] for some links. The first two are related to immigration and multiculturalism: Progressivism Makes Immigrants Unwelcome and Seeing the West as worse. And then, a Christmas one: Born of […]

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Image of Martians and links | Forks and Hope
Martians and links | Forks and Hope

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.