However, while naturalization, the ability to vote and hold elected office, was tightly restricted for the first century of United States' history, immigration to this country was completely unrestricted. Indeed, the Founding Fathers explicitly stated in the Declaration of Independence that one of the reasons they had rebelled against the King was due to his attempt to restrict immigrants from coming to the colonies:
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hitherAbsolutely anyone could move into the United States, start a new life, a new business, pay taxes, participate in military service, raise a family, die and be buried without ever becoming a citizen. But, only naturalized citizens could vote and hold political office. So, the United States had an "open-borders" policy for the first century of its existence. Anyone could immigrate into the US and start a new life, but only those who went through the naturalization process, only those who became citizens, could vote or hold elective office.
This set of policies, in which open immigration was permitted, but naturalization was tightly controlled, persisted until the 1870's and 1880's. Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859 and Descent of Man in 1871. For the next several decades, growing support for Darwinian eugenics eventually drove the US government to close the borders and adopt immigration laws. These new immigration laws were intended to end the open immigration policy which the Founding Fathers had permitted, in favor of preventing "racial taint" from immigrants who entered from undesirable countries.
Note well: the "racial taint" argument was made by the Progessivism movement, with eugenicist luminaries such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson leading the race-baiting charge against immigrants. While Christianity had used government policy to end slavery, Progressivists used government policy to impose Darwinian eugenics.
Now, every Christian church opposed Darwinian eugenics, and the Progressivists knew it, which is why John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White went to the trouble of inventing and promulgating the preposterous myth of the War Between Science And Religion. The invention of this "war" was necessary in order to push forward the Progressivist eugenics agenda. They were successful. Not only does the general public accept this nonsensical history, Darwinian eugenics has been government policy every since. In fact, every president since, and including, Theodore Roosevelt - with the sole exceptions of GW Bush and Ronald Reagan - has supported eugenics.
So, by 1882, America had passed its first immigration law, the Chinese Exclusion Act. A series of additional immigration acts soon followed, as the United States tried desperately to show that whites were superior to all other races. When the policies were first imposed, "white" was defined rather differently. "White" and "Protestant" were considered essentially identical. Thus, immigrants from Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece, were considered "black" for purposes of immigration and segregation laws. Irish immigrants, being Catholic, were held to be human trash. By the early 1900s, both immigration and segregation laws were considered good Progressive policy, endorsed especially by Democrats and by Woodrow Wilson, who complemented the new immigration laws by introducing segregation at the federal level for the first time.
Even a passing acquaintance with US history demonstrates how our immigration laws built on Progressivism and Darwinian eugenics. It is one of the great ironies of history that so many modern "conservatives" are pushing the self-same Progressivist ideology that their Christian Republican forbears fought over a century ago. If we are really interested in following the original intentions of the Founding Fathers, we would return to the "open borders" policy our Founding Fathers designed and intended for the country. From the perspective of the men who wrote the US Constitution, immigration was never a problem. Naturalization was the primary concern.
The Founders knew what we refuse to recognize. Immigrants, both legal and illegal, actually make better-behaved citizens than America's current voting citizens do. Wherever illegal immigrants congregate in high numbers, crime rates fall.
To shed light on this contention, Governing conducted an analysis using recently released metro area population estimates from the Pew Research Center for “unauthorized immigrants” -- people who crossed the border illegally or overstayed visas. The analysis not only found no link with violent crime, but indicated concentrations of unauthorized immigrants were associated with marginally lower violent crime rates. A statistically significant negative correlation was also shown for property crimes. For every 1 percentage-point increase in the unauthorized immigrant share of a metro area’s population, average property crime rates dropped by 94 incidents per 100,000 residents....
It's these same places that tend to record relatively low crime rates. The 20 metro areas where unauthorized immigrants were most prevalent in the Governing analysis recorded, on average, property crime rates 10 percent lower and violent crime rates 8 percent lower than those of all other regions reviewed. El Paso and San Diego, both adjoining the Mexican border, post some of the lowest violent crime rates of any big American cities year after year, for exampleThe distinction between "legal" and "illegal" immigration is based on faulty eugenics theory. Thus, conservatives should be fighting to implement the Founding Fathers' original vision: open borders for immigrants, but naturalization - the ability to vote and hold office - tightly restricted. In that way, we get the best of both worlds. We get the immigrants who were vibrant enough and motivated enough to come to this country, we reap the benefit of their entrepreneurial spirit, while giving them as much time as they need to decide whether or not they want to become full citizens of our republic. What could be better than that?
Some people argue that the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to be anti-immigration law, but this is false. No one, no lawyer, no historian, considers the Alien and Sedition Act an anti-immigrant law. Those laws provided for powers to DEPORT foreigners as well as making it harder for new immigrants to vote (voting and holding office are subjects concerning naturalization, not immigration), but even the Alien and Sedition Acts said absolutely ZERO about immigration.
And even those laws were never actually used to deport any foreigner. Under the terms of this law over 20 Republican newspaper editors were arrested and some were imprisoned. The most dramatic victim of the law was Timothy Lyon, a Republican congressman from Vermont, who became the first person tried under the new law in October 1798. Lyon won reelection while sitting in jail, and would later defeat a Federalist attempt to kick him out of the House.
And, to add insult to injury, the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures passed resolutions declaring those specific federal laws invalid within their states. Who wrote those resolutions? Why, James Madison (author of the Constitution) and Thomas Jefferson. Both men explicitly called the Alien and Sedition Acts "unconstitutional."
So, the Declaration of Independence demonstrates the colonies rebelled against the King in part because the King would not allow open borders: "He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither"
The Constitution provides rules naturalization (the right to vote and hold office) but never even mentions the word "immigration." That makes immigration control an unenumerated power, and the proper responsibility of the states, not the federal government (10th Amendment). In fact, states used to run their own naturalization boards until nearly the 20th century.
There were never any federal laws restricting immigration until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. That, and all subsequent immigration law, was put in place by Progressive Darwininan eugenicists. In fact, not only was there no law against, it was quite the contrary. Under Lincoln, there was a Federal Bureau to ENCOURAGE Immigration.
Some people point to the Alien and Sedition Acts as "immigration control" laws, but those laws made zero attempt to control immigration. That law DID allow for deportation of citizens from countries with whom we were at war but:
- no one was ever actually deported under that law,
- the law expired at the end of four years and
- both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (author of the Constitution) explicitly called those laws unconstitutional AND both men helped Kentucky and Virginia write and pass state resolutions nullifying the federal laws as unconstitutional.
America was founded as open borders country.
The federal government did not attempt to restrict immigration until 1882.