Immigration and Patriotism

Immigration and Patriotism June 22, 2011

Neuhaus makes the cogent observation that American patriotism has been regularly refreshed by the influx of immigrants who find that the American dream is still realizable: “Perhaps taken-for-granted Americanism needs to be regularly refreshed by the Americanism of those who discover America all over again.” With the end of mass immigration in the 1920s, “the believability of American patriotism began to decline.”

For several reasons, Neuhaus was skeptical that mass immigration would be renewed. The introduction of “some kind of income floor or guaranteed minimum for all its people” is one factor. While Neuhaus approves the polity, the effect is to set “the outsider beside rather than behind millions of Americans and thus creates a fear of competition.” More darkly, Neuhaus thinks that “most Americans would be appalled by the prospect of ten or forty million Mexicans, Nigerians, or Malaysians coming through the ‘golden door.’ Economics aside, they are so very foreign. They are not more our people coming from our old countries. They are so decidedly them . They are as frighteningly foreign to us as were the huddled Irish, Jewish and Italian masses frighteningly foreign to the scions of the country’s founders a hundred years ago.” Today, he suggested, “America has neither the necessity nor the will to take the risk of welcoming the stranger.”

If accurate, his analysis yields an ironic outcome: In the name of patriotism, Americans squelch what has been one of the chief sources of patriotism.

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