The Golden Door To America Writen by Randy j 11/24/00 I wrote this paper for Political Life 1110 Should America Close the Golden Door? America has, is, and will always be a nation of immigrants: the great melting pot. In the years that have passed since Emma Lazarus poem was inscribed on the Statue of Liberty the golden door has seen times when it was open wide and times when it was closed shut to almost all immigrants. Many people tend to look at the present immigration problems as a purely modern dilemma. The truth is America has always struggled with the issue of immigration, both legal and illegal. Changing times however make it imperative that our government re-examine and adjust todays immigration laws to todays standards. Those standards however are not easily defined. All too often the issue of immigration is used as a political tool or is lost in heated moral debates. In any discussion about immigration you will have those who claim it is good for our nation and those who claim it is ruining the nation. More often than not the bottom line in any debate of this sort is money; will more or less immigration mean more or less money for those already in America.
The moral debates come down to a question of who we are as a nation and how we want the rest of the world to perceive Americans. If this great country was forged and built by immigrants passing through the golden door , then how can this same country turn away new immigrants. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty invites all to enter, yet not all are allowed to enter. Immigration has become a selective process with many gray areas. Now Americans are faced with a new dilemma; the nation must decide not whether it is willing to accept new immigrants, but whether it can afford new immigrants. All new immigrant, both legal and illegal must be considered in this equation. Congress can attempt to ease the burden of legal immigration by passing restrictive laws and only allowing in those who they believe will become self-sufficient.
Congress must also find a way to slow the flow of illegal immigration by enforcing the laws already in place. What this paper will attempt to do is bring the immigration issue into perspective. America most certainly has immigration problems but they will not be fixed by eliminating immigration all together. In fact, America will never totally eliminate immigration, because no matter how tightly the door is closed some illegal immigrants will get through. As long as America continues to be seen as a nation of prosperity, opportunity, and freedom there will be those who wish to come to America.
Immigrants have always come to America looking for a better life and Americans are always forgetting that their forefathers were once looking for that same life. As a nation there must be a decision on whether immigration is an issue of conscience or economics. History of Immigration Laws Though most Americans see immigration as a modern problem it has been heavily debated since the 19th century. Throughout most of Americas history immigration was seen as a natural process that benefited the nation (Divine 2). Until the 1890s there were no clearly defined policies on immigration. During this time the country started questioning the economic benefits of more immigrants, so things have note changed in that respect. In May 1921, the first bill in American history restricted European immigration and created the quota system (Divine 5).
This turn toward restriction could be justified by the downward turn in the economy. Who could argue for more immigrants when the nations own citizens couldnt find work. The slowing economy and the spirit of intense nationalism in the United States at this time made immigration a hot topic (Divine 23). After the depression hit everyone was in agreement that there was a need to limit immigration, of course the extent of those limits were not easily agreed upon (Divine 77). World War II brought with it a new set of immigrants, and eventually the passing of the Displaced Persons Act of 1947. This allowed immigrants, displaced by the war to enter the country above quota limits (Divine 128).
Since then our legislators have been faced with numerous proposals concerning immigration, too many in fact to mention. Those mentioned above are significant in the fact that they show a definite shift in Americas attitude toward immigration. Since the 1920s immigration has not been seen as a natural process, but a process that could overwhelm a nation if left unchecked. Current Immigration Laws and Issues As of this time there are no less than fifty proposed bills in Congress that can affect immigration, which proves that this is an ongoing battle with little chance of ending. In recent years the immigration policy has found itself in a state of flux; going back and forth between pro and anti immigration.
The Immigration Act of 1990 is one of the more current policies to regulate immigration. This policy sets a flexible annual limit on immigration at a rate of 700,000 immigrants per year until 1994 when the number will drop to 675,000. This number of course does not include refugees and those seeking asylum (Immigration..). If these numbers seem staggering one must take into account the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 illegal immigrants added to the nations population each year (Suro 8). In the mid-90s there was a shift in Americas immigration policy to close the doors and end the current era of immigration (Suro 8).
In fact in President Clintons 1995 State of the Union Message he said: It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it. (Immigration..) This attitude led to the Immigration Enforcement Improvements Act of 1995, which was meant to secure our borders, make deportation of illegal easier, and discourage the employment of illegal aliens (Immigration..). In essence this was a proposal to enforce the laws already in place. This was a strong attempt by the government to limit illegal immigration while facilitating legal immigration. As of now, due to the lack of credible data, it is unclear if this legislation worked. What is clear is the continuing struggle to find a balance in the immigration system.
Many citizens are concerned with such issues as overpopulation, lack of jobs, and the cost to tax payers if this mass wave of legal and illegal immigrants continues (Castro 198). Concerns America has established such an inherent open heart/open door policy that it seems the melting pot may be about to boil over. Some estimates put the United States population over capacity by as much as one-hundred million (Amselle 60). Americas lax attitude toward overpopulation may have turned to one of danger that must be avoided (Amselle 60). In the past immigration was somewhat balanced; a good economy meant more immigrants and a slower economy saw a decrease in immigration (Amselle 60).
There are those who feel the United States has absorbed all the people it can (Amselle 60). Then you have those like Joel Kotkin of the Progressive Policy Institute who feel that the large numbers of immigrants are working age adults, that America needs to offset the growing number of pensioners (Amselle 60). Even if the immigrant population can offset the number of pensioners, the number of.