Although immigration has been a central component of both American history and culture, it’s been a contentious issue throughout much of our history. Some Americans contend that immigrants have made enormous contributions to our country. On the other hand, others argue that—while this may be true, we need to rethink our immigration policy in light of the War on Terrorism. How did immigration start in the United States, how has it progressed, and where is it now?
Immigration to the American colonies began predominantly with Protestant English settlers coming to the New World. Once the United States was established, the immigration of other nationalities quickly increased: Eastern European immigration increased dramatically, and both Japanese and Chinese settlers began traveling across the Pacific to reach the West Coast. Jewish immigrants seeking safety from persecution began making the journey, and other nationalities followed in suit. Although very few spoke English when they arrived, America quickly became a melting pot of different nationalities—although, this was also fought with resistance. Different pieces of legislation were passed by Congress either limiting, restricting or changing how certain people were able to come into the country. Sometimes, these policies came to affect current US citizens; despite fears being overblown, President Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066 during World War II which authorized the relocation of Japanese citizens over concerns of national security.
In terms of the presidential election, Americans have been primarily concerned with terrorism as they consider immigration policy. Although public officials claim that since 9/11 immigrants are one of the most vetted and safest groups, public opinion still ranges from extending citizenship to all immigrants to placing restrictions on immigration from country’s known to harbor terrorists. The spread of ISIS across Syria has many Americans concerned with whether or not to allow Syrian refugees into the country, as well.
Immigration policy in this election is also concerned with the southern border of the United States. Candidates from both major parties have expressed a number of viewpoints ranging from building a wall, mass deportations of illegal immigrants, creating a path to citizenship, and ending birthright citizenship. How is terrorism shaping the debate on immigration policy? How should our immigration laws be changed?
To safeguard the country against terrorism, the United States should not accept any refugees from Syria into the country. We should also deport illegal immigrants to their home countries. Birthright citizenship should also end—just because someone was born here doesn’t mean they should automatically be granted citizenship.
As a nation of immigrants, the United States should welcome those seeking a better life. Our government is capable of vetting immigrants and excluding the ones who could pose a national security risk. While we may need to tweak our immigration system, we should embrace American values and continue to extend citizenship to those seeking safety, including Syrian refugees. By banning refugees, we play into the hands of ISIS who would rather see us divided than united.
Red Card Solution
The Red Card Solution is a simple way for immigrants and their families to legally come to the U.S. for specific jobs and for a specific period of time. It would require them to go through a background check and to return home at the end of their employment. It would give them no special place in the citizenship line.
While we may need to tweak our immigration system, we should embrace American values and continue to extend citizenship to those seeking the American dream.