Trump’s immigration plan is as American as apple pie

· September 1, 2016  
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A slice of apple pie
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I’ve spent the past few years writing almost weekly about immigration and tackling the issue from all angles. As such, a number of media figures have asked for my opinion on Trump’s immigration speech.

Before presenting my thoughts, I must submit that I’m not commenting on the messengerand all that he may or may not stand for on this or any other issue. Trying to pin down Trump on a position reminds me of Regis Philbin asking on the gameshow Who Wants to be a Millionaire, “is that your final answer?” Who is to know if he contradicts himself again on this issue or ultimately what he will do when he is president. But the message from last night was an important one and one that has been missing from our political discourse for far too long, even though it has been rooted in our history, tradition, and values on immigration up until this generation. In fact, it is still reflected in the statutes on the books even in this generation.

Trump’s immigration plan incorporates many ideas I’ve been presenting for years.

Here are some important quotes:

Our message to the world will be this. You cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country.

When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following, amnesty, open borders, lower wages. Immigration reform should mean something else entirely. It should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.

The truth is, the central issue is not the needs of the 11 million illegal immigrants… Anyone who tells you that the core issue is the needs of those living here illegally has simply spent too much time in Washington… There is only one core issue in the immigration debate, and that issue is the well-being of the American people.

Whatever one thinks of Trump himself or some of his supporters, there should be nothing controversial about these statements.  It is those who find these comments offensive who must do some soul searching about their national priorities.

The understanding was that immigration (unlike decisions affecting those who are already citizens) is an elective policy and must therefore only be pursued in a way that benefits the national interest.

The Basics of Sovereignty

There is no decision a sovereign society makes that is more important and consequential than determining the future orientation of that society. This includes the rules of immigration and citizenship that will shape the character of the nation and the voting populace that decides every other important political issue.[1] It is therefore the right of every society to determine — via its elected representatives… and only its elected representatives — the methods, procedures, conditions, amounts, and origin surrounding the admission of any given immigrant or group of immigrants.[ii] The executive branch must obey those laws and faithfully execute them to protect the nation’s sovereignty. The courts have absolutely no right to interfere, as we’ve explored together in this columnsince the release of my book, Stolen Sovereignty.

As James Madison wrote in 1835, “[I]n the case of naturalization a new member is added to the Social compact …by a majority of the governing body deriving its powers from a majority of the individual parties to the social compact.” [3] This is why our Constitution vested Congress with plenary power over immigration policy and why the courts, before they became autocratic in recent years, conceded that they have no jurisdiction to second-guess the legislature on any immigration decision.

Indeed, it is not only the legal prerogative of elected representatives to place the interests of the sovereign citizens over any group of foreign nationals; it is a duty to only pursue policies that will benefit, first and foremost, those already here and to certainly not burden them with liabilities. As Calvin Coolidge told a group of immigrants in 1924, “As a nation, our first duty must be those who are already our inhabitants, whether native or immigrants.”[4]

Much like a head of household must not let any false sense of compassion for others interfere or undermine the well-being of his wife and children, elected representatives must pass laws protecting the interests of the citizens, and executive officials must scrupulously enforce them.

In chapters four and six of Stolen Sovereignty I chronicle the history of immigration laws and our Founders’ philosophy on immigration. What is abundantly clear is that even from colonial times, they were careful never to admit to the society criminals or those who would be a public charge in any shape or form. The understanding was that immigration (unlike decisions affecting those who are already citizens) is an elective policy and must therefore only be pursued in a way that benefits the national interest.

Our Founders were very clear in their opposition to openly inviting immigrants and turning immigration into an institution. At the same time, they warmly welcomed individuals who would share our republican values, become net contributors, and cast off all allegiance to other nations. They opposed immigration as a distinct institution, but supported patriotic and productive immigrants. These values are rooted in the very first citizenship laws in the 1790s and are still reflected in the laws on the books (that are not enforced) to this very day.

From page 127 of Stolen Sovereignty:

In a letter to an immigrant friend in 1813, then President Madison made it clear that they would always warmly welcome immigrants “who are attached to our Country by its natural and political advantages.” He was emphatic about his views that mass immigration as an end to itself beyond those with particular skills was not to be encouraged. “I am obliged, at the same time, to say, as you will doubtless learn from others, that it is not either the provision of our laws or the practice of the Government to give any encouragement to emigrants, unless it be in cases where they may bring with them some special addition to our stock of arts or articles of culture.”[5]

Taking the common sense approach of not flooding the host nation with large numbers of immigrants from radically divergent cultures over a short period of time doesn’t mean that these are bad people.

Coolidge’s Americanism vs. White Nationalism 

Liberals often build up a straw man and define this common sense and bedrock principle as motivated by racial animus. They point to token Alt-Right clowns or white nationalist creeps who might champion some of the same positions for their own purposes. But the reality is that these principles of trying to preserve America as a beacon of republicanism don’t lead to the conclusion that every other country or culture is evil. Taking the common sense approach of not flooding the host nation with large numbers of immigrants from radically divergent cultures over a short period of time doesn’t mean that these are bad people.

To be clear, we have an appalling criminal alien problem in this country — with up to 2 million criminal aliens living on our soil. The fact that such a high number of aliens have continued to live here despite not having entered via legal channels is a clear testament to the violation of the most sacred duty of our government. We have plenty of evil Americans, but we are limited by what we can do with them. On the other hand, we shouldn’t bring in a single criminal through the elective policy of immigration.

However, as it relates to those who are impoverished, don’t share our republican values, or still have allegiance to their home countries and don’t want to completely become American — in the words of the Oath of Citizenship to this very day: “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign…state.”[6]  God bless them, but bringing them into the country hurts the national interest instead of promoting it.”  

As I observe in Stolen Sovereignty, Calvin Coolidge, one of the best conservative presidents, embodied these values. Unlike some other supporters of the 1924 immigration cool-off, Coolidge embraced people of all backgrounds. He said at the time if he had the line-item veto and the ability to veto just the provision of the bill that banned all Japanese immigration, he would have done so. But on net, he felt the immigration cool-off was worth it. In chapter seven of Stolen Sovereignty I demonstrate how the consequences of this wave of immigration dwarf those of even the Great Wave in so many ways — numerically, culturally, fiscally, security-wise — and yet in 1924 there was a consensus to implement a cool-off. And that was without having incurred the devastating effects of decades’ worth of illegal immigration we have suffered from concurrent with this super great wave of legal immigration today.

Here is an excerpt from page 164 of Stolen Sovereignty:

Consider how, after five decades of unprecedented third-world immigration, our society has been fundamentally transformed in a radically different way from the first great wave of immigration. In 1921 there was unanimity of opinion among both the general public and politicians that there was an urgent need to curtail immigration in order to buy time needed to pass legislation to restructure our immigration system, as did happen in 1924, when the House unanimously passed a bill curtailing immigration across the board. There was no recorded vote! The bill passed the Senate 78-1.

In his 1925 State of the Union Address, Coolidge defended the 1924 bill and said that any ideals of compassion for immigrants must always work “in accordance with the principle that our Government owes its first duty to our own people and that no alien, inhabitant of another country, has any legal rights whatever under our Constitution and laws.” [7]  

Several years later, Coolidge made it clear that these policies were rooted in common sense and not animus for any particular group of people, saying:

We have certain standards of life that we believe are best for us. We do not ask other nations to discard theirs, but we do wish to preserve ours. Standards, government and culture under our free institutions are not so much a matter of constitutions and laws as of public opinion, ways of thought and methods of life of the people. We reflect on no one in wanting immigrants who will be assimilated into our ways of thinking and living. Believing we can best serve the world in that way, we restrict immigration.[8] [emphasis added]

Who are the true extremists on Immigration?

Remember, Coolidge was reflecting upon the need for a cool-off after a wave of legal immigration and was expressing the need to place America’s interests before those of foreign nationals. There was never a thought among government officials to ignore the laws and allow people to come here illegally against the national will, as they realized what a devastating effect widespread illegal immigration could have on schools, hospitals, social programs, and the criminal justice system. Even during our most open period of immigration at the turn of the 20th century, immigration officials strictly upheld laws barring public charges, criminals, or those even with eye diseases. Those principles, in conjunction with the cool-off period, made the Great Wave of immigration a great success.

Nobody ever challenged these principles as it related to illegal immigration. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find anything Trump said last night that was not supported by Bill Clinton and passed by Congress without much controversy in 1996.

Until the past two generations, immigration laws were generally followed. As immigration historian Peter Schuck observes in regard to the unanimity of opinion on immigration policy until recent years, “one searches the immigration cases in vain for a titanic interbranch struggle like those that have occurred in other areas of public law.”[9] The parties and factions might have disagreed over handouts for classes of Americans, but nobody ever thought twice about violating our sovereignty and turning over America’s security and well-being to foreign nationals. And until Ted Kennedy broke our immigration policies, the entire world understood that if they came here against the national will or became a public charge (and certainly a criminal or communist), they were thrown out (and the transportation company that gave passage to them had to pay for their return![10]). That understanding no longer exists, which in itself has incentivized more illegal immigration.

The fact that no other major leader in either party ever discusses the victims of illegal immigration, like the ones on stage in Phoenix last night, even as they talk incessantly about rights for illegal immigrants, is a testament to how far they have deviated from our history, traditions, and values on immigration.

As for Donald Trump, it’s pretty hard to rectify the dumpster fire he set at the beginning of this campaign. However, if he gets serious about consistently staying on message and running ads hitting Hillary on her radical immigration views, last night’s message is about as good as he can realistically do.   


[1] Vatt. Law Nat. lib. 1, c. 19, §§ 230, 231[“Every nation has the right to refuse to admit a foreigner into the country, when he cannot enter without putting the nation in evident danger, or doing it a manifest injury. . . . Thus, also, it has a right to send them elsewhere, if it has just cause to fear that they will corrupt the manners of the citizens; that they will create religious disturbances, or occasion any other disorder, contrary to the public safety. In a word, it has a right, and is even obliged, in this respect, to follow the rules which prudence dictates.”]

[2] Nishimura Ekiu v. United States 142 U.S. 659 (1892)[“It is an accepted maxim of international law that every sovereign nation has the power, as inherent in sovereignty, and essential to self-preservation, to forbid the entrance of foreigners within its dominions, or to admit them only in such cases and upon such conditions as it may see fit to prescribe. […] As to such persons, the decisions of executive or administrative officers, acting within powers expressly conferred by congress, are due process of law.]

[3] The Writings of James Madison, 9: 570-571, essay on Sovereignty 1835, as reposted on the Online Library of Liberty website, http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/madison-the-writings-vol-9-1819-1836.

[4] “Remarks to a Delegation of Foreign Born Citizens at the White House,” October 16, 1924, as republished on the Calvin Coolidge page of The American Presidency Project website, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=24181.

[5] “James Madison Letter to Morris Birkbeck,” in 1813, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison: 1794–1815, vol. 2 (New York: Worthington, 1884), 576, emphasis added.

[6] Despite the requirement to swear off all allegiance, there are well over one million naturalized citizens who vote in foreign elections.

[7] Calvin Coolidge, “Third Annual Message,” December 8, 1925, as posted on the State of the Union Addresses & Messages: Theodore Roosevelt Page of The American Presidency Project website, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29566.

[8] Calvin Coolidge, “Calvin Coolidge Says,” The Milwaukee Sentinel, December 15, 1930, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19301215&id=il9QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8w4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=2166,2547942&hl=en.

[9] Peter H. Schuck, Citizens, Strangers, and In-Betweens (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1998) 31.
[10] The Immigration Act of 1891 § 10 (Chap. 551 26 Stat. 1084).


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.