Immigration boosters have a new favorite tactic: #resistancegenealogy.
That’s the name given to the work of liberal writer Jennifer Mendelsohn, who has spent a lot of time digging into the ancestry of those who have expressed support for reducing immigration. The purpose of such activity is to shame immigration hawks with the argument that their ancestors would not have been let into the country under President Trump’s proposals. Thus, they must embrace unrestricted immigration in order to avoid looking like hypocrites.
Mendelsohn has singled out several big names for this shaming tactic, such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller. But one of her favorite targets is White House social media director Dan Scavino.
The “Resistance Genealogist” discovered Scavino’s great-grandfather was a low-skilled migrant from Italy who came to live in America with his brother. Mendelsohn mocks the Trump aide for backing the president’s policy proposals of prioritizing high-skill migrants and ending chain migration when those ideas would have disadvantaged Scavino’s ancestors.
The point of all this research is to argue that any change in policy that would result in less immigration is un-American. Since we had tons of low-skilled migrants who came to the country in the early 20th century with the help of their relatives already here, we must continue this policy for all eternity.
In a CNN puff piece on Mendelsohn, she expressed her opinion that the great factor that connects Americans is that we are all immigrants. In her opinion, we must continue to support liberal immigration policies and never even consider reducing our nation’s intake of newcomers. The implication here is that it’s immigrants, not citizens, who define America’s character.
Unsurprisingly, Mendelsohn’s shaming tactic leads her to have a flawed view of immigration policy. America has not had one set immigration policy since its founding. For instance, the first naturalization act in 1790 required that all incoming Americans be “free white men of good character,” a policy position that was obviously discarded.
In the 1920s, the decade after Scavino’s great-grandfather arrived in America, the nation passed strict immigration restrictions that remained on the books for over 40 years. Much derided by liberals in the last 50 years, the Immigration Act of 1924 was a response to concerns that the unrestricted migration was having a negative effect on the nation and that reduction was needed in order to better integrate the newcomers.
The America the Scavinos came to in the early 20th century was also a very different country than it is now. The economy then had a huge demand for low-skilled workers to do grueling work in factories. Today, low-skilled workers are rapidly getting replaced by automation and outsourcing in all sectors. Many of the same people who will cheer on Mendelsohn’s arguments will happily shop at Amazon’s cashier-less stores, begging the question as to why they demand absolutely no restrictions on low-skilled immigration.
America’s current economy requires merit-based immigration in a way that the economy of the 1910s did not. There were plenty of job opportunities then that are no longer around, meaning that many of the low-skilled immigrants coming to America in the 21st century will find themselves on government assistance.
That brings us to one of the other major differences between today and the early 20th century: the absence of a social safety net for the Ellis Islanders. Coming to America in the 1910s was a huge risk that required extreme hard work and little room for failure. There was hardly any government assistance to fall back on and one had to find work in order to survive.
Today, over half of immigrant households are on government assistance. In comparison, only 30 percent of native households receive this welfare. Taking in more immigrants with few employment opportunities comes at a cost for the taxpayer, a significant change from the age in which Scavino’s family migrated.
The other huge difference is the radical changes in America’s culture. For most of the 20th century, the country stressed confident “Americanization” efforts that assimilated the children of immigrants into the culture and traditions of America. Immigrants were taught to leave the language, customs and ties of their homelands behind and embrace their new land as their own.
In our era, the prevailing consensus is that America was built on white supremacy, Americanization is problematic and immigrants should retain the ways of their homelands. This leaves us with such bizarre instances as media outlets celebrating immigrants calling America racist while lionizing their native countries. One wonders why these exemplars of the new Americanism came here in the first place.
Multiculturalism, not Americanization, is the rule of the day. Immigrants are encouraged to not change themselves, but to transform the nation. It’s the native-born citizens who now have to assimilate to the new cultural atmosphere.
There’s nothing un-American with the descendants of the old immigrants finding this an abnormal situation and looking to change immigration policy to reflect the current era. We want immigration to meet our country’s current needs and the newcomers to integrate with our society.
Every person who lives in America is descended from someone who came from elsewhere — yes, even Native Americans. Acknowledging this doesn’t justify open borders or change the fact that America’s citizens are the ones who define its character.
America’s duty is “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” not to uphold the feelings of our immigrant predecessors.