American Immigrants – Legal and Illegal

American Immigrants – Legal and Illegal

© David Burton 2012

Government Agencies

     America is what it is because of immigrants. I am an American because one of my parents was an immigrant and all four of my grandparents were Immigrants. Today, we are still largely a land of immigrants – new, old, legal and illegal.


     In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt said the following: "In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag ... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language [Emphasis mine] ... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people." (Ref. 1)

     Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas on immigrants and on being an American included the following:

     “The Americans of other blood must remember that the man who in good faith and without reservations gives up another country for this must in return receive exactly the same rights, not merely legal, but social and spiritual, that other Americans proudly possess. We of the United States belong to a new and separate nationality. We are all Americans and nothing else, and each, without regard to his birthplace, creed, or national origin, is entitled to exactly the same rights as all other Americans.”
     - (Ref. 2: Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, 180, July 15, 1918)

     “Never under any condition should this Nation look at an immigrant as primarily a labor unit. He should always be looked at primarily as a future citizen and the father of other citizens who are to live in this land as fellows with our children and our children’s children. Our immigration laws, permanent or temporary, should always be constructed with this fact in view.”
     - (Ref. 2: Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, 58, December 1, 1917)

     “The immigrant must not be allowed to drift or to be put at the mercy of the exploiter. Our object is not to imitate one of the older racial types, but to maintain a new American type and then to secure loyalty to this type. We cannot secure such loyalty unless we make this a country where men shall feel that they have justice and also where they shall feel that they are required to perform the duties imposed upon them. . . .
     “We cannot afford to continue to use hundreds of thousands of immigrants merely as industrial assets while they remain social outcasts and menaces any more than fifty years ago we could afford to keep the black man merely as an industrial asset and not as a human being. We cannot afford to build a big industrial plant and herd men and women about it without care for their welfare. We cannot afford to permit squalid overcrowding or the kind of living system which makes impossible the decencies and necessities of life. We cannot afford the low wage rates and the merely seasonal industries which mean the sacrifice of both individual and family life and morals to the industrial machinery.” (Ref. 2)

     Roosevelt elsewhere stated the following. “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism [Emphasis mine]. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts "native" before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance. But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.
     “The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic. The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American. There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.
     “For an American citizen to vote as a German-American, an Irish-American, or an English-American, is to be a traitor to American institutions; and those hyphenated Americans who terrorize American politicians by threats of the foreign vote are engaged in treason to the American Republic.
         - - -
     “The foreign-born population of this country must be an Americanized population - no other kind can fight the battles of America either in war or peace. It must talk the language of its native-born fellow-citizens, it must possess American citizenship and American ideals. It must stand firm by its oath of allegiance in word and deed and must show that in very fact it has renounced allegiance to every prince, potentate, or foreign government. [Emphasis mine] It must be maintained on an American standard of living so as to prevent labor disturbances in important plants and at critical times. None of these objects can be secured as long as we have immigrant colonies, ghettos, and immigrant sections, and above all they cannot be assured so long as we consider the immigrant only as an industrial asset. The immigrant must not be allowed to drift or to be put at the mercy of the exploiter. Our object is to not to imitate one of the older racial types, but to maintain a new American type and then to secure loyalty to this type. We cannot secure such loyalty unless we make this a country where men shall feel that they have justice and also where they shall feel that they are required to perform the duties imposed upon them. The policy of "Let alone" which we have hitherto pursued is thoroughly vicious from two stand-points. By this policy we have permitted the immigrants, and too often the native-born laborers as well, to suffer injustice. Moreover, by this policy we have failed to impress upon the immigrant and upon the native-born as well that they are expected to do justice as well as to receive justice, that they are expected to be heartily and actively and single-mindedly loyal to the flag no less than to benefit by living under it.” (Ref. 3)


     The subject of assimilation was addressed in Australia (with respect to Muslim immigrants) in the following excerpts from interviews, speeches and articles by Australian Treasurer Tony Costello and Prime Minister John Howard. Feel free to substitute America for Australia and any immigrant group that feels that they should not have to conform to America’s laws, customs and traditions for Muslims.

     What is said needs to be said clearly and often in countries other than Australia. What is said in the article should apply doubly in the United States. The Aussies have always been known for straight and unembellished talk. Once again, they have upheld this reputation.
     Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told . . . to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.
     On National Television the Australian Treasurer hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament. He said, "If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you".
     "I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia: one the Australian law and another Islamic law that is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option".
     The Australian Education minister told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off. Basically people who don't want to be Australians, and who don't want, to live by Australian values and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off".
     Instead of having the nation adapt to the immigrants, the Australian Prime Minister was quoted as saying: "IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture.
     "However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the 'politically correct' crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of Australia being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. And as Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle.
     "This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom." "We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language!
[Emphasis mine]
     "Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture. [Emphasis mine]
     "We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, . . . We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others.
[Emphasis mine]
     "This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'. If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted."
[Emphasis mine]


     In general, immigrants to America should not have to be supported by public welfare. Historically, a requirement for admission to America was evidence that new immigrants would either be able to support themselves or would be supported by family and/or private organizations until they were able to support themselves. This policy has not been followed in recent years.

     Instead of requiring or encouraging self sufficiency of immigrants, the Obama administration’s policy has been to promote “welfare and EBT benefits for immigrants with a ‘welcome’ package and promotional website that encourages new arrivals to take advantage of the nation’s generous government largesse.” (Ref. 4)

     About this policy, a Massachusetts state representative said: “I think it’s a complete outrage that we’re encouraging people coming here to get public assistance. . . . We should be encouraging people to be self-sufficient. These programs are rampant with fraud and abuse.” A group of U.S. senators has asked the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “why food stamps and other benefits are being promoted [Emphasis mine] to new immigrants. The agency’s website includes a comprehensive handbook directing immigrants on how to obtain food stamps, Medicare, disability and other taxpayer-funded aid.” According to one senator, “That is contrary to law and sound policy.” (Ref. 4)

     Another senator noted that, in contrast to the Obama administration’s policies regarding new immigrants, “the nation’s immigration policy historically has been to deny admission to anyone who would become ‘a public charge.’ . . . It {the administration’s immigration policy} flies in the face of what the immigration policy is supposed to be. . . . People with skills can’t get in, and our USDA is advertising benefits for people who are immediately going to go on welfare. There’s a great bit of irony there.” (Ref. 4)

     A member of the Senate Committee on the Budget stated:

     “Federal law prohibits the granting of visas to those likely to be welfare reliant, yet DHS {Department of Homeland Security} actively promotes these benefits to millions of new arrivals every year.
     “DHS should remove any sections of its website, and any portions of its materials for new arrivals, that promote or encourage welfare reliance.
     “It is a long-held principle of immigration that those seeking a life in America are expected to be able to care for themselves financially and contribute to the financial health of the nation. The Administration’s actions show this principle is no longer in effect. Encouraging self-sufficiency must be a bedrock for our immigration policy, with the goal of reducing poverty, strengthening the family, and promoting our economic values. But Administration officials and their policies are working actively against this goal. At the same time, those who would be self-sufficient are denied or delayed in their admittance.” (Ref. 5)

     Some of the administration’s other controversial immigration policies/actions include the following:

** “The USDA signed a pact with Mexico requiring 50 US-based consulates to hand out information to Mexican nationals on how to obtain welfare and other benefits
     - (Ref. 4)

** “The agency created a Spanish-language ad in which an individual is ‘pressured’ into accepting feed stamps, even though she says her family is self-sufficient.”
     - (Ref. 4)

** A USDA web site gives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) “recruiters tips on how to ‘overcome the word no’ when seeking to sign up new recipients {for the food stamp} program.”
     - (Ref. 4)


     If immigrants are to be integrated into American society and if they are going to be able to succeed in this country they must learn to speak, read and write our common language – English. Up until the end of the 20th century, this was a given. My grandparents and my father who were immigrants to America at the start of the 20th century attained at least a basic level of proficiency in English. Such should be the case with all immigrants. Speaking one’s native language among friends and family is certainly appropriate, but to not be able to converse in English in the outside American world is simply unacceptable. My parents spoke Yiddish with my grandparents, but outside the home, they all spoke English. The overarching principle here is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When in America, speak, read and write English! We do our immigrant community no favor by not insisting they acquire an ability to read, write and speak English.

     “Speaking English is a guaranteed way for new immigrants to succeed in school, increase their earning potential, and enhance their career options.
     “This nation decided long ago that you must know English to become a citizen. So there is no reason to offer government services in foreign languages. In the same way that the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem bring this nation together, English is something we share and should promote.
     “In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that . . . a Mexican immigrant who had lived in the U.S. for 10 years without learning English, could not sue Alabama because the state did not offer foreign-language driver's license tests.
     “Other federal courts have held that there's no right to foreign-language government forms, deportation notices, or civil service exams. . . .
     “Both the courts and America's citizens and immigrants have sent a clear message: We must unite our country behind our proud national language, help new immigrants advance by learning it, and save taxpayer dollars by making English our national language. “ (Ref. 6)

     “Canada was settled by both English and French. It had no choice but to be a bilingual nation. By contrast, the United States was originally blessed with a single common language.
     “Canada has experienced social unrest, threats of separation and a referendum that came within a hair’s breadth of breaking up the nation.
     “One of the major reasons for America’s great success as the world’s first “universal nation,” for its astonishing and unmatched capacity for assimilating immigrants, has been that an automatic part of acculturation was the acquisition of English.
         - - -
     “No immigrant should presume to demand that the state grant special status to his former language. He may speak it on the street and teach it to his children, but he should know that his future and certainly theirs depends on learning English as the gateway to American life. To not do so considerably limits their ability to participate in many aspects of the American economy.
     "English is America’s national and common language. Making English the official language means it’s the language of the government and its institutions. 'Official' makes clear our expectations of acculturation. An immigrant must understand English to be able to vote. He has the right to speak whatever language he wants but must understand that when he comes to America, swears allegiance to the country and accepts its bounty, he undertakes to join its civic culture. In English.” (Ref. 7)


     When Barack Obama was elected to his first term in office, he promised a comprehensive reform to our immigration laws and policy. It didn’t happen. We still need such a comprehensive immigration reform. Here for your consideration are some of the issues and some of the suggested changes.

     “In many quarters, the debate over immigration reform boils down to a tug-of-war between those who want more enforcement and those who want legalization (a path to citizenship) for 11 million undocumented immigrants. But comprehensive reform requires addressing far more than these two issues. Most comprehensive proposals in that past several years would have increased border enforcement, instituted verification requirements for employers to ensure they are not hiring unauthorized workers, increased visas for high-skilled workers, and provided legalization for the undocumented immigrants here now. Over the years, narrower legalization proposals have focused on the DREAM Act for undocumented students, AgJobs for farmworkers, and a massive guest worker program that was promoted by President Bush. . . .
     “However, for many immigrants, their relatives, and their supporters, comprehensive reform entails much more. Consider the family immigration categories. The waitlist for many relative categories, particularly for those from Mexico and the Philippines, can be 10 to 20 years. Providing extra immigrant visas to clear the backlogs would do much to alleviate the pressure for some individuals to enter in violation of immigration laws. . . .
     “The immigrant visa system itself is anachronistic. . . . {We need a new visa system attuned to the realities of the 21st century.}
     “Our immigration enforcement regime is {outdated and unfair}. In the past few years, overzealous enforcement programs {have unfairly} swept up victims of crimes, minor offenders, and even crime witnesses. {Indeed}, little attention has been paid to the fact that ever since 1996, lawful immigrants and refugees who have committed an ‘aggravated felony’ are deported without a chance to introduce evidence of rehabilitation, remorse, or hardship to citizen relatives. . . . There's a problem when spouses of citizens and parents of citizen children are deported as 'aggravated felons' without giving an immigration judge the opportunity to decide whether the deportee deserves a second chance. {We need a more realistic immigration enforcement policy that is strict, fair and focused on each individual situation .}
     "Given the demographic changes that have been brought about by immigrant and refugee resettlement across the country, {we need to} promote civic engagement efforts that serve to welcome newcomers. {We should} reach out to immigrants and refugees as soon as they arrive so that they, too, might understand the responsibilities of being an American.” (Ref. 8)

     Other suggestions, some quite controversial, for immigration reform include:

  • “Increase the availability and equitable distribution of green cards. This would curtail the flow of migration through illegal channels.”
  • “ Provide a pathway to legalization for all current undocumented migrants living and working in the US.” {This is one of the more controversial of the proposals for immigration reform.}
  • “ Allow children and young adults brought here as children, and raised in the US, a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two years in higher education, {military service,} or community service.
  • “Allow not just spouses, but permanent partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, including same-sex partners, to obtain permanent residency.”
  • In order to “relieve chronic farm labor shortages, {supply} undocumented migrant agricultural workers a legal opportunity to enter the county and a path to legal status and eventual citizenship.”
  • Make provisions “to retain highly, educated professionals in the United States.”
  • Liberalize the law that {defines} “vast numbers of crimes as deportable offense when committed by immigrants {and make} punishments of immigration crimes commensurate with comparable crimes in other areas of the law.”
  • “ Modernize and streamline the immigration process and eliminate the backlogs for those already in the queue. Simplify the paperwork process and utilize technology to cut wait times and bureaucratic delays.”
  • “Impose a statute of limitations on being undocumented in the United States such that any person who has continuously lived in the U.S. for {some defined number of} years, pays taxes and has ‘good moral character’ should be allowed to apply for permanent residency.”
    -  (Ref. 9)
  1. Theodore Roosevelt on Immigration, Theodore Roosevelt, Constitution Party of Utah;
  2. Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas on Immigrants and being an American , Theodore Roosevelt, Speech before Knights of Columbus, New York City, 12 October 1915.
  3. Theodore Roosevelt Advocates Americanism, 1915, Theodore Roosevelt, Immigration and Americanization (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1920); Philip Davis (ed.), 1920.
  4. ’Outrage’ over fed EBT push for Aliens, Dave Wedge, Boston Herald, Page 6, 20 November 2012.
  5. 9 What Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform?, Bill Ong Hing, The Blog, 15 November 2012.
  6. Sessions: DHS Must Remove Welfare Promotions For New Immigrants, Jeff Sessions, United States Senate; Committee on the Budget; Republicans: Press Release, 19 November 2012.
  7. Should English be declared America's national language?, Senator James M. Inhofe Republican of Oklahoma, The New York Times: Upfront, Accessed 22 November 2012.
  8. Immigrants should learn English to join civic culture , Roger M. Clites,, 8 April 8 2012.
  9. What does “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” Mean?, Prerna Lal,, 16 November 2012.


  10 December 2012 {Article 152; Govt_37 }    
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