Friday, October 24, 2014

M. E. Bradford on Immigration

Prof M. E. Bradford’s essay ‘Sentiment or Survival: The Case against Amnesty’ has aged remarkably well (and has proved prophetic in some instances).  Though written in 1984 during the debate over the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill (which we now know was an utter disaster), the principles Prof Bradford lays out are just as valuable for us today as we grapple with the purposefully irresponsible immigration policy of the federal government regarding, especially, Mexico, Central America, and Ebola-stricken West African nations. 

It is regrettable that he was so high in his praises of what was then and is now a destructive power in the world (the forced American Union), and so quiet on the subject of the South, in this particular work.  But as a faithful Southerner who fought manfully for her on many other occasions, we feel certain that he had her in mind when he mentions things like ‘civil communities which maintain their own institutions and identities, generated by their own respective histories’.

May your memory be eternal in the Kingdom of Christ our God, dear brother.

From ‘Sentiment or Survival’:

 . . .

The great problem with the people both inside and outside of government whose efforts make fair to ruin the proposed immigration law revisions is that they deny the validity of distinctions separating as categories guest, citizen, and interloper.  Any principle that might result in the exclusion or expulsion of any persons not citizens who desire to reside in our midst they find repugnant.  If not quite insisting that the “golden doors” be opened to all comers, they nonetheless invoke the doctrine of universal “human rights” as an authority which, in given instances of distress, supersedes all naturalization laws—especially those of prosperous countries where a majority of the population is white—and thus demand a more and more inclusive “amnesty” provision as a part of Simpson-Mazzoli, a conversion of seven or eight million illegal inhabitants of the United States into a special class: criminals rewarded for having committed a crime in violation of our integrity as a sovereign political entity.  And the prospect is that this amnesty, covering covert and unauthorized immigrants arriving in this country before January 31, 1982, will be only the first in a series of similar acts, each legitimizing the status as legal permanent or legal temporary residents of the United States of another group of illegal aliens, making them candidates for membership in our body politic, and thus defrauding those who seek to become fellow citizens among us according to our laws.

The amnesty provision is of course the worst feature of Simpson-Mazzoli, and was included there in part to attract the supporting votes of legislators who can imagine importing a docile majority to foster their ambitions, presently frustrated by the good sense of the American people.  As to the character and judgment of politicians who would create a proletariat where at present not much of one exists I can add little to the verdict of history upon all their kind.  Eventually they are all devoured by monsters they have made.  And deserve their fate.  For where there is no connection but in appetite there can be no limit upon it.  But much of the lobbying and contemporary emotion in favor of this amnesty has its source in something more worthy than a plan to assemble and then vote a class of perpetual dependents.  I speak now of our honorable disposition to be a hospitable people, ready to receive guests and to give shelter to those who endure exile from their patria for the sake of principle.

Even in the most ancient literature of the West, hospitality to travelers and visitors is recognized as the virtue which distinguishes civilized men, those who fear the gods and keep their laws.  For the stranger might always be something more than he appeared to be—like Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey or the angels in Genesis 18 who announce to Abraham and Sarah that they will have a son.  Peleus had given shelter to Phoenix, who became the tutor of his son Achilles in the Illiad.  Ecgtheow, father of Beowulf, had been protected by Hrothgar, the Danish king later assisted by his son.  And Virgil’s Dido welcomed Aeneas when the storm drove him to Carthage.  According to the teaching, to offer the wanderer safe harbor is to deserve the same, should exile ever be our misfortune.  But the old writings also tell us that the law of hospitality is a coin with two faces.  The visitors in the Odyssey have abused the house of Odysseus.  They have insulted his family, attempted to kill his son, corrupted his servants, and consumed his substance.  His old father, Laertes, has been driven into the fields.  The Greek gods put a special curse on such violations of privilege.  The offenders must die, if respect for the comity of men and nations is to survive.  Even as all of Troy must be destroyed because of its after-the-fact complicity in the crime of Paris, a prince of that great city and its representative, against his Spartan host, King Menelaus.  Hospitality is an expression of the self-esteem, the spirit of noblesse oblige, to be found among a proud people.  It is not a measure of self-interest but of sentiment—reflecting a powerful sense of security and grace.

But self-respect has nothing to do with a suicidal passion to “open the gates and let them all come in.”  For the first law of every society, even the condition of its gestures of generosity, is that it put the needs of its own members ahead of the needs of outsiders.  Such an order of priorities is part of what we mean by the “social contract”: the commitment to certain persons by the terms of which we are precluded from establishing an equivalent bond with others.  Said another way, any act of choosing is an act of exclusion as well as of inclusion.  We have no social connection with any man if we have the same obligations to all.  Any goal contrary to the common good of the corporate “we” which endangers the future of the whole, and sets one of its components or part of its value system so far ahead of the rest as to threaten all, is, in essence, sentimental: indicative of an emotion out of proportion to the context in which it appears.  Or worse than sentimental, following from that error which the ancient theologians called cupidity: putting a greater ahead of a lesser good, with all done in the name of love.

Any society that, out of a gratuitous benevolence, destroys its own capacity to protect its members or to assist legitimate friends outside the compact which defines its limits is, in a collective sense, guilty of cupidity.  Like Milton’s Adam in preferring Eve to the will of God.  For by practicing such love for mankind in the abstract, as represented by those ostensibly distressed in their place of residence, it violates Burke’s maxim that “to be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.”  This much he can assert in the name of civilization because, as he adds elsewhere, “we begin our public affections in our families.  No cold relation is a zealous citizen.”  And if “physical relations . . . are the elements of the commonwealth,” no man who neglects hearth and rooftree will ever rise to “higher and more large regards,” to a proper version of “love to our country, and to mankind.”

Thus when our most refined moralists insist that, in questions involving immigration, borders be ignored and distinctions of citizenship set aside, they are repeating the old error of Jean Jacques Rousseau: assuming the superiority of a uniform, dead-level “state of nature” to civil communities which maintain their own institutions and identities, generated by their own respective histories.  The philosophers of natural rights prefer to conceive of a polity defined by commitment to propositional statements concering humanus genum, the species at large—ignoring the evidence that most high civilizations have emerged out of a combination of the ties of blood and friendship, of common religious faith and cooperation in business, politics, war, and art, not from generalizations that discourage such cohesion.  That the greater human family can be thought of as fulfilling its composite nature only as it subdivides into “little platoons” and tribes and nations—in its repudiation of the presocial isolation of individuals who are “citizens of the world”—the Fathers of the Republic understood clearly, as may be easily determined from an examination of their approach to questions of admission and naturalization of such aliens as desired to settle among them (pgs. 111-14).

[Prof Bradford then illustrates this last point by examining federal immigration legislation, from the ‘Act to Establish an Uniform Rule of Naturalization’ of 26 March 1790 to the 1965 amendments, when things turned for the worse according to Prof Bradford, of the 27 June 1952 ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ to Simpson-Mazzoli (pgs. 114-20).]

In or before 1965, few of our public men dared to argue that the distress of immigrants would, by reason of our national identity, our political inheritance, oblige us to receive them, regardless of the preferences of an overwhelming majority of American citizens.  Nor prior to that time would one of our erstwhile statesmen have declared that our borders cannot be closed, that illegal aliens cannot be expelled from our midst, or that the rights of American citizens, their values and needs, cannot be preserved against claims from the outside created by the economy, the political atmosphere, and the exploding population of our sister republics immediately to the south.  Since the crossing of that watershed, what a failure of nerve we have seen.  . . .

That any of our countrymen would think themselves abused because illegal immigrants with a background like their own were not politically protected from the natural consequences of their crimes and allowed to compound them by bringing in more illegal immigrants, their relatives, to join them in their immunities here, would not have occurred as a reasonable cause for concern for any previous generation of American leaders.  But that was before we began to make such ado about human rights, and in the process reached a point where we could not sustain any policy—however legal, just, or well-advised it might be—if there was an objection to it that could be made as a special consideration to one of our minority populations.  Now we have come so far as to be uncomfortable in defending a way of life which derived its essential properties from the careful and heroic labor of earlier Americans of European ancestry—even if those ancestors were our forefathers.

We cannot bring ourselves to repatriate millions of alien criminals or to punish employers who hire them or to require others to carry identification proving that they are rightfully a part of our society—positive provisions of Simpson-Mazzoli.  We want an easy solution to the immigration problems that we face, one which makes everyone happy, concerning which no one will complain of racial and/or cultural bias.  Thus, in the end, we may have no immigration policy at all: or any perception of the difference between guest, interloper, and citizen; or, finally, any country of our own.  If unchecked, more and more illegal immigrants will come from Latin America, Asia, and (eventually) other parts of the world—come by the millions, swamp our system of social services, aggravate our employment problems, subvert our political stability, and thereby stir among us the fires of racial hatred which are heating now in Britain and Germany, France and Sweden, and are a danger in most of the world’s developed nations, except Japan.  In other words, we will have precisely the sort of situation which the advocates of amnesty insist that they so much deplore out of a conviction that “there are no longer strangers and sojourners,” but only citizens of the global community.  If we thus persist, our children in generations to come will marvel at this circuitous sentimentality—and then pay the price of the cowardice which lies at its source.

But if, to the contrary, we would prefer to mean by the word “homeland” something more than a memory, a discursive concept, and a segment of geography (thanks to immigration, all that the Romans understood by patria long before their city fell), then the first order of our business will be to drain the rhetoric of natural rights out of our discussion of what immigration policy we should adopt and enforce.  For that rhetoric is appropriate only to an argument from definition, and to a world where God hath not made nations of men, nor appointed “the bounds of their habitation.”  Instead our focus should be on the ideas of public virtue and citizenship, of what prospective citizens might bring to their country, and what harm they might do it.  For with civil rights go duties, and an obligation to defend the corporate good.  That we put first, as prior to other questions, the survival of the homeland should not be a question open to discussion among its sons and daughters—that is, unless the conditions of its survival are shameful.

An alien has in the strict sense of the term no civil rights, nor any obligation to protect the cives to which he does not belong.  But the citizen has behind him the honor of his countrymen (and some of their resources) when threatened by indignities while beyond the nation’s borders.  The Fathers read this lesson in civics in the history of the Punic Wars and in events of British history like the Glorious Revolution.  They translated it into the American myth of the citizen-soldier.  All of them, that is, except for that noisy radical, Thomas Paine, who went from his role in our Revolution into a very different atmosphere in the France of Danton and Robespierre.  As a citizen of the world and a Girondian, in 1792 he allowed himself to be elected to the National Convention.  Seventeen months later the Jacobins thought him not radical enough, confined him at Luxembourg and sharpened the guillotine.  At that point Thomas Paine rediscovered the value of American citizenship and—in violation of his earlier universalism, to the amusement of our ambassador in Paris, Gouverneur Morris—claimed its protection.  In this one instance (if in no other) we should follow Paine’s example—appreciate the value of an incorporated, civil condition, and shape our laws to enhance it, including our laws concerning immigration, naturalization, and illegal entry.  And the scale of appropriations necessary if the Immigration and Naturalization Service is expected to enforce them.

Finally, in attempting to revive among our brethren some notion of the great value once attached to American citizenship, we should recall that foreign-born aspirants to that privileged estate have never been confused on that subject.  Their appeals for a place in our company have always been addressed to the generosity of a sovereign American people, a nation that has offered its citizenship as a free gift to more immigrants than have been received by any other modern state.  And it was to the status of citizen that they always aspired, not to a local application of the doctrine of the rights of man.  We must not, in a period of low employment and social tension, make the mistake of many advanced societies and bring in (or accept once here illegally) a large population of aliens without a clear plan of how we may absorb and utilize them, without a conviction that they will learn English, accept our culture, our institutions, and follow our ways.  Most certainly we must not make this mistake at the suggestion of those loud voices (South and North American) for whom hatred of the United States is axiomatic, the desire for its destruction a daily dream, and the flood of undocumented Mexican workers pouring into our Southwest a kind of reconquista.

To specify our firmness on this question we should attach a penalty more severe than mere repatriation to repeated illegal crossings of our border, or offer an award for the identification of interlopers.  For belief that the secular religion of natural rights requires the United States to accept eight million of them—for a starter—is tantamount to the mistake in logic that maintains the authority of the same religion to risk a war in order to free the slaves in Siberia.  Only if natural rights have priority over the circumstantial objection that, damaged or destroyed, we can protect and liberate no one will we find our first duty so far away from home.  On the other hand, if we take seriously the role of citizen then we will compel our elected representatives to recall their prior obligation to the compact between the living, dead, and yet unborn: our prescription from those wise spirits who established among us a general approach to the question of immigration which has allowed us to live together in peace and prosperity.  By cherishing among ourselves the elements and dynamic of a society these predecessors could recognize as rightfully their handiwork we will contribute to our own ever-continuing maturation, and be better armed to assist friendly peoples in preserving a homeland of their own.  Then Congress might give up on evasion, farce, and melodrama, eschew posturing and sentimentality, and provide, through laws which we clearly require, for the survival of the Republic (pgs. 120-3).

Works Cited

Bradford, M. E.  ‘Sentiment or Survival: The Case against Amnesty’.  Remembering Who We Are: Observations of a Southern Conservative.  Athens, Ga.: U of Georgia Press, 1985, pgs. 110-23.

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