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US history fraught with baseless fear of immigration

A Reuters/Ipsos poll finds seventy percent of Americans think illegal immigrants threaten U.S. customs and beliefs. This thought has been consistent throughout the history of the country.

Even the great sage Ben Franklin worried about immigration. He feared the German invasion the most. In a letter written in 1753 (when there were limited, if any, immigration laws) Franklin wrote:

Few of their children in the Country learn English; they import many Books from Germany…They have one German News-paper, and one half German. Advertisements intended to be general are now printed in Dutch and English; the Signs in our Streets have inscriptions in both languages, and in some places only German: They begin of late to make all their Bonds and other legal Writings in their own Language, which (though I think it ought not to be) are allowed good in our Courts, where the German Business so encreases that there is continual need of Interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will be also necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our Legislators what the other half say; In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.

Over time, Franklin’s fears didn’t come true. History has proven the United States has not only survived the wave of immigration Franklin feared, but two more (we are surviving the fourth).

This worry over illegal immigration has carried over to the nation’s legal immigration policies.

According to the poll, 45 percent think the United States should decrease the number of immigrants legally allowed into the country every year. Thirty-eight percent said the current number is just fine and only 17 percent agreed with allowing more immigrants into the country.

The minority has it right here.

More legal immigrants should be allowed to work in the United States. Increasing the number of work permits would cut down on illegal immigration. There really is nothing to fear.

Yet, that fear and worry still rule the immigration debate. Politicians know this and seize on it to gain votes year after year. They sell us on those Ben Franklin-style worst-case scenarios to drive up the fear the America is slipping away.

Maybe it’s true that America is slipping away, but immigration can’t be blamed. Since 1776, as a country, the American ideals Americans work so hard to protect have survived multiple waves of immigration.

There’s no reason to think that’s going to change now because of who is coming into this country. If anything it will change because of who is elected to serve.