TO "POSSESS THE NATIONAL
CONSCIOUSNESS OF AN AMERICAN"
(Louis Brandeis July 4, 1915). Dr John Fonte, email: JohnF@hudsondc.org Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute. Revised August 2000. www.hudson.org
At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked (or so the story goes) what kind of government the Founding Fathers had created behind closed doors in the sweltering heat of Philadelphia that summer. The venerable Franklin, then in his eighties, answered, "a republic, Madam, if you can keep it." "Keeping it" or preserving, perfecting, and perpetuating the American democratic republic has always been the overarching concern of America's greatest leaders: Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Franklin, Lincoln, Wilson, the Adamses and the Roosevelts. Today, Franklin's admonition, "if you can keep it" is the great issue that faces Americans in the 21st century.
Our republic is best described by political scientist James Ceaser of the University of Virginia as a compound regime that rests on two pillars. As the Declaration of Independence puts it, these two pillars are "natural rights" and "the consent of the governed. "The American regime, Professor Ceaser notes, combines " constitutionalism" and "republicanism." It is based on republicanism (self-government or the "consent" of "we the people" ) and constitutionalism (in which the people limit themselves through a constitution that rests on the philosophical idea that individuals possess "rights" by their nature as human beings.)
The American regime has been variously called a liberal democracy, constitutional republic, democratic republic, constitutional democracy, representative democracy, representative republic, liberal republic, bourgeois republic, and bourgeois democracy. Professor Ceaser asks rhetorically if the "practice of using compounds" is "an accident" or reflects "something fundamental." The answer, is the latter, the Founders created a compound regime.
I will use the term American liberal democracy throughout this essay to mean that the American system of government is both "liberal" (constitutionally limited, based on individual rights and equality of individual citizenship) and "democratic" (based on the rule of a self-governing free people). Obviously, this is not to suggest that America has always been "liberal" and "democratic," (slavery, segregation, discrimination, and inequality of citizenship have plagued our history). Nevertheless, this is to suggest, that America' s Founders between 1776 and 1789 consciously created a new form of regime (Novus Ordo Seculorum) that, as Professor Ceaser demonstrates is a compound mix of constitutionalism and republicanism or if you prefer, liberalism and democracy.
At the core of American liberal democracy are individual citizens. They are, in effect, the members of the American nation-state. But, what does American citizenship and our liberal-democratic nation-state mean at the beginning of the 21st century? We are in the midst of a great technological-communications revolution that is changing concepts of time and space. At the same time immigration is altering the ethnic and racial composition of the United States. However, most significantly, we are in the middle of a great debate among ourselves, as the traditional concepts of citizenship and of the American nation are being challenged in the name of these technological and demographic revolutions.
On the one hand, we are told that the "demographic imperative" (i.e.large numbers of non-Western immigrants are altering America's Western culture) combined with increasing global interdependence and transnational connections require new (and transformational) thinking about American citizenship, identity, and the nation-state.
On the other hand, we are told that the new immigrants will (and should) assimilate to American values and civic culture, which are after all increasingly universal in outlook and dominant in influence in today's high-tech global world of instant communications. This essay will be divided into three parts. (1) It will examine the traditional viewpoint of assimilating immigrants beginning with George Washington and ending with Barbara Jordan. (2) It will examine the challenge to the traditional view in the name of transnationalism and multiculturalism. (3) It will examine crucial issues in the clash between these two perspectives.
I TRADITIONAL VIEW
Traditionally, immigration policy has not been an end in itself, but a means to an end. The ends, as noted earlier, are the preservation, improvement, and transmission of American constitutional democracy. For most of our history relatively liberal immigration policies have been viewed as being in the national interest. At other times more restrictive policies were deemed appropriate. In any case, for the most part, the major criterion for open immigration policies has been the national interest of the United States, particularly the interest in a larger population and larger work force. At the same time, humanitarian sentiments and concerns have reinforced liberal immigration policies because traditionally America has been a refuge from turmoil and oppression.
This essay will argue that two implicit doctrines have traditionally guided America\rquote s approach to immigration and assimilation. I will call them "American constitutional morality" and "patriotic assimilation."
American Constitutional Morality
By "American constitutional morality," I mean the belief in and adherence to the core principles of the American regime. Unlike many other countries, the American nation-state is not based on race, ethnicity, or religion, but on loyalty to a constitutional regime founded on liberal democratic principles (or constitutionalism and republicanism, in the original terminology). From the beginning, America has been an "ideological nation." As Richard Brookhiser, a senior editor at National Review , has pointed out in 1776 American Patriots and American Tories had, for the most part, the same ethnic stock, the same religious beliefs, and spoke the same language; what inspired them to go to war against each other was ideology. The same is true, of course, of the American civil war. Thus, it is not surprising, perhaps, that loyalty oaths were present at the creation of the United States and first made their appearance during the American Revolution.
American constitutional morality is informed in our two core documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution itself is explained in detail in The Federalist Papers described by Thomas Jefferson as "the best commentary on the principles of government every written." These documents affirm the sovereignty of a single American people. This is clear from the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence: "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds that have connected them to another."
Thus, the Continental Congress was declaring that the American people were dissolving their bonds with the British people. The idea of a self-constituted people is also clear in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: "We the people of the United States....do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States." In this case, the American people were altering the form of government (state) from the Articles of Confederation to the new Constitution.
Thus, for the Founders, American constitutional morality is realized by a people (nation) forming a government (state). Hence our liberal democracy is realized within the American nation-state. Clearly, our constitutional morality tells us that: (1) we are one people in one nation-state (unlike for example, democratic Canada and Belgium); (2) the people are sovereign (hence, we are a self-governing people); and (3) the power of the representatives of the people is limited by "natural rights" (because, all men are "endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights." )
This constitutional morality emphasizes republicanism meaning equality of individual citizenship in the sense that the American system outlawed a hereditary aristocracy with special privileges that other citizens did not have. The Founders rejected intellectually the medieval world of hierarchical groups and rankings. Obviously, this principle of equality of individual citizenship has been violated throughout the course of American history, slavery being the clearest example. However, as Abraham Lincoln insisted in his debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858, "the fathers of this government expected and intended the institution of slavery to come to an end. They expected and intended that it should be in the course of ultimate extinction" and they left it "with many clear marks of disapprobation upon it." One of our leading contemporary historians of the Founding period, Bernard Bailyn, put it this way: "What is significant in the historical context of the time is not that the liberty-loving Revolutionaries allowed slavery to survive, but that they-even those who profited directly from the institution-went so far in condemning it, confining it, and setting in motion the forces that would ultimately destroy it."
In a similar vein, Gunnar Myrdal pointed out in his famous work, The American Dilemma (1944) that segregation or legal inequality based on race contradicted the core principles of what he called "the American Creed." Therefore, he predicted correctly that advocates of equal citizenship (both black and white) would appeal to the conscience of the majority of the American people and eventually win, even though they constituted a minority viewpoint at that time.
Is is often said that the United States is a "propositional nation." This concept comes from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address "Our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." The "propositional" basis of the American regime is usually broadly interpreted to mean that Americans are united by the core principles of liberty, democracy, equality of citizenship, and individual rights that are embodied in our core documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as opposed to having common ethnic, religious, and cultural roots. All of this is true, of course, and what I am calling "American constitutional morality" means adherence to this "proposition." I will argue, however, that we are more than a "propositional" nation, we are a "proposition plus" nation.
By patriotic assimilation I mean the concept that immigrants essentially adopt American civic values and the American heritage as their own. For example, patriotic assimilation occurs when immigrants and the children of immigrants begin to think of American history as "our history" not "their" history. The eminent American philosopher Sidney Hook (the son of Jewish immigrants from the Russian empire) wrote in his autobiography that he during his school days he identified with 18th and 19th century American heroes. He adopted American heroes and the American story as his own, the fact that men like Washington and Lincoln were Anglo-Saxon Protestants had nothing to do with it- they were his ancestors too.
Professor Lawrence Fuchs of Brandeis University (the vice-chairman of the U.S. Commission on Immigration, chaired by Barbara Jordan), in his classic study of William McKinley High School in Honolulu in the 1930s describes Japanese-American students referring to "our Pilgrim ancestors." Although this is in one sense ironic, in the larger sense of patriotic assimilation it is true, the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers are all our ancestors regardless when our families came to America or where they came from. By patriotic assimilation, I do not mean Anglo conformity. Patriotic assimilation is not concerned with religion, food, music, ethnic subcultures, and the like, but with civic integration and the adoption by newcomers of America' s civic story. While the concept of patriotic assimilation originally meant that non-English Europeans from different cultures and speaking different languages could assimilate to the American civic regime, this idea eventually expanded to include all people. Significantly, during the 18th and 19th centuries America led the world in assimilating large numbers of immigrants from diverse cultures into republican citizenship.
Obviously patriotic assimilation means emotional as well as philosophical (or ideological) commitment to the nation. It moves beyond the "proposition\rdblquote and suggests a \ldblquote proposition plus" nation. This was the view of the authors of the Federalist Papers . James Madison argues in Federalist 49 that even "the wisest and freest government" requires some degree of " veneration" in order to endure. Philosophical adherence to an abstract "proposition" is not enough. Thus, Madison writes: "In a nation of philosophers, this consideration [veneration] ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in every other nation, the most rational government will not find it a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community on its side."
The Founders Views of Immigration and Assimilation
America's Founders placed immigration and the assimilation of immigrants into the context of their major priority---nation building, specifically building the American nation-state. In the late 18th century, the young republic needed a larger population for the settlement of land and for economic improvement and, therefore, encouraged immigration. At the same time, America's Founders were concerned with strengthening national unity and republican citizenship for all Americans, native born and immigrant alike.
Claremont political scientist Charles Kesler notes that "the most urgent task facing the Founders was not to Americanize the immigrants, but to Americanize the Americans." Matthew Spalding and Patrick Garrity in A Sacred Union of Citizens , write that George Washington's Farewell Address above all "directs the American regime toward Union, or unity rather than diversity." Indeed, throughout the text of the Farewell Address, Washington emphasizes American unity and its connection to American liberty.
For example, President Washington tells Americans that " ...your Union ought to be considered as a main prop to your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other." Indeed Washington insists: "The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a Pillar in the Edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace aboard; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty which you so highly prize."
In one of the most quoted passages of the Farewell Address Washington declares: "Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same Religion, Manners, Habits, and political Principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils, and joint efforts; of common dangers, sufferings, and successes."
One could ask: what did Washington mean by the third last sentence of this paragraph? What was he attempting to affirm? Clearly, President Washington, the author of the famous letter in support of religious liberty to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island and an occasional visitor to St Mary's Roman Catholic Church of Alexandria, Virginia, knew, of course, that Americans had different religions. He also knew that they came from different ethnic backgrounds. However, his articulation of the idea that "with slight shades of difference you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles" affirmed the point that Americans essentially have (or in the interests of republican government should have) at some level, what today we would call a "common culture" in terms of principles, values, and mores.
In a sense Washington's nuanced statement improved upon John Jay's more sweeping affirmation of an American common culture nine years earlier in Federalist 2: "Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, processing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side, throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established their general liberty and independence." Eminent political philosopher Walter Berns, wrote that Jay's "exaggeration served the purpose of pointing to the importance of unity and the dangers of disunity, or to employ the term the Founders never used diversity."
George Washington in a letter to John Adams made it clear that he favored assimilating immigrants into some cultural as well as ideological aspects of American nationhood. Washington specifically worried about immigrants remaining in enclaves and isolated from other Americans.
...."the policy or advantage of [immigration] taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for, by so doing, they retain the language, habits, and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them. Whereas by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people."
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and other leading Founders of the American experiment expressed similar views on immigration and assimilation. As Washington put it, "We shall welcome [immigrants] to a participation of all of our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment." Unlike almost everywhere else in the world in the 1790s the American republic offered religious and civil liberty to native born and immigrant alike. Washington declared that America was "open" to the "persecuted and oppressed of all nations and religions." Shortly after being elected President, Washington wrote the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island and told them that in the United States they were free to exercise "their inherent natural rights." He noted that: "The citizens of the United States of America have the right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy worthy of imitation."
While welcoming immigrants to help build the country the American Founders were clear in insisting on ideological (and to a certain extent at least cultural) assimilation. They wanted immigrants to adopt American political principles (the "proposition" or what I have called "American constitutional morality") and they favored the "patriotic assimilation" of immigrants. Certainly, Washington's admonition that immigrants "get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws" and "intermix" with "our people" in order to "soon become one people" is asking for more than adherence to an abstract "proposition."
In a 1790 speech to Congress on the naturalization of immigrants, James Madison stated that America should welcome the immigrant who could assimilate, but exclude the immigrant who could not readily "incorporate himself into our society." One of the leading experts on the Founders views on immigration, political philosopher, Thomas West has noted that Madison argued that residency requirements for citizenship should be established because he: "believed it necessary to guard against abuses. They should induce wealth and strength of the country. Those who would weaken it were not wanted."
Both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton saw advantages to immigration, but worried about the assimilation of newcomers, and insisted that this was necessary for the preservation of the American republic. In Notes on Virginia, Jefferson wrote:
"Every species of government has its specific principles. Ours perhaps are more peculiar than those of any other in the universe. It is a composition of the freest principles of the English constitution, with others derived from natural rights and natural reason. To these nothing can be more opposed than the maxims of absolute monarchies. Yet, from such, we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants. They will bring with them the principles of government they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing , as is usual from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and tender it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass."
Alexander Hamilton insisted that: "The safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of citizens from foreign bias and prejudice; and on the love of country which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education, and family..." The ultimate success of the American republic, Hamilton maintains depends upon "the preservation of a national spirit and a national character," among native born and immigrant alike.
Hamilton opposed granting citizenship immediately to new immigrants: "To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens, the moment they put foot in our country would be nothing less than to admit the Grecian horse into the citadel of our liberty and sovereignty." Instead, Hamilton recommended we should gradually draw newcomers into American life," to enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments; to learn the principles and imbibe the spirit of our government; and to admit of a philosophy at least, of their feeling a real interest in our affairs."
Political Philosopher Charles Kesler notes that "despite their partisan differences" Hamilton and Jefferson "together with other members of the founding generation" agreed that "there was no necessary conflict or contradiction between the universal precepts underlying American citizenship and the cultivation of 'a national spirit and a national character' for this particular people."
Clearly, Washington's call for "one people;" Madison's insistence that the immigrant "incorporate himself into our society;" Jefferson's concern that some newcomers might not be prepared for "temperate liberty;" and Hamilton's emphasis on the "safety" of our republic and the "love of country;" are all more or less of one piece. They are a clarion call for "patriotic assimilation."
Given the Founders' forthright insistence that new immigrants assimilate to the principles and spirit of the American constitutional republic, it is not surprising that the Naturalization law of 1795 required that before becoming American citizens, aliens would have to "renounce under Oath" all previous sovereign allegiances. This "renunciation clause" remains today part of the naturalization law and part of the Oath that new citizens take to the U. S. Constitution. This Oath renouncing prior allegiances is a clear expression of American constitutional morality. In taking the Oath the immigrant is leaving a previous people and joining the American people by becoming a citizen (a full member) of the American democratic republic. As has just been noted, this is exactly what Washington, Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton envisioned----one people consisting of republican citizens.
Founders' Views on Civic and Moral Education
To place the Founders views on immigration and assimilation in context it should be noted that most of them had an intense interest in the civic and moral education of all Americans. In a sense they recognized that there are two types of "newcomers" to republican civic life in America: immigrants and the native born young. They knew that republican citizens are made not born. They favored the "patriotic assimilation" of young Americans born in this country as much as immigrants from across the seas.
Over and again the Founders mentioned education, morality, and religion as bulwarks necessary to sustaining republican government. Before the Constitution was enacted in 1787 Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance to establish policies for the broad territories northwest of the Ohio river that would later form 10 new states. The Ordinance stated clearly in Article 3 that "Religion, Morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
In his Farewell Address, President Washington told his fellow Americans that the cultivation of education and of religion and morality was necessary to sustain a free society ("Tis substantially true that virtue and morality is a necessary spring of popular government.") In his Eighth Annual Message to Congress Washington advocated a national university to strengthen American unity and patriotism. He worried that sending young Americans to Europe to study could result in "ardent and susceptible minds" becoming "too strongly and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own."
Besides George Washington-John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison all wrote of the importance of civic and moral education for the perpetuation of republican self-government.
Thus, John Adams insisted in 1778 that all Americans rich and poor, needed civic and moral education if the American constitutional republic is to be sustained: "Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom. Aristotle speaks plainly to this purpose, saying: "that the institution of youth should be accommodated to that form of government under which they live." Since America was a republic, its young, its future citizens, should be educated for republican citizenship. For that purpose, Adams declared, "schools for the education of all should be placed at convenient distances, and maintained at the public expense."
Thomas Jefferson, of course, devoted extensive thought to civic education. As a curricular framework for good citizenship he suggested that the study of the past would warn Americans of the misuse of power and ambition; thus he recommended that students should be: "acquainted with Grecian, Roman, English, and American history" so that they will "understand the experience of other times and other nations" and, most importantly, "know ambition under every disguise it may assume, and knowing it to defeat its views."
In the middle of the 18th century, even before there was an American nation-state, Benjamin Franklin recommended that an academy be established where young Americans could learn the knowledge and skills of civic leadership by studying oratory, practicing writing, and participating in debates. He advocated the study of political history, theories of government, commerce and technology, science and trade, and, most importantly, at the center of the curriculum thorough grounding in the use of the English language.
Lorraine Smith Pangle and Thomas Pangle in an important work on the educational ideas of the American Founding note that James Madison emphasized federalism and the role of the states in achieving sound education goals. The Pangles contend that Madison "hoped that the American resistance to centralized authority might be turned to the advantage of education, by encouraging a healthy and productive competition between states...[he] saw the federal system rather as a laboratory that allowed controlled experiments in fields like education, limiting the scope of failures and encouraging friendly rivalry in reaching common goals."
Like Jefferson, James Madison believed that education would help Americans understand and be wary of unscrupulous ambition and unlimited power. Thus, Madison wrote: "Learned institutions ought to be the favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments of the public liberty..."
Twentieth Century Americanizers: Theodore Roosevelt,
Woodrow Wilson, and Louis Brandeis
More than one hundred years after the Founders promoted the importance of assimilating new immigrants into both American ideas and American culture; the nation's leaders responded to the new mass immigration of early 20th century in much the same spirit. They insisted that newcomers should assimilate or "Americanize" in the new terminology. Three leading figures of the period Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Louis Brandeis recast in similar terms the Founders' arguments for American constitutional morality and the patriotic assimilation of newcomers.
Shortly before the 20th century began Theodore Roosevelt in an essay on "True Americanism" sketched the early arguments for the Americanization movement of the next few decades. Roosevelt's line of reasoning closely resembled the Founders' thinking on immigration and assimilation. Like Washington's insistence on religious freedom in his letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, Roosevelt declared that, "We demand that all citizens, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, and Gentile, shall have fair treatment in every way, that all alike shall have their rights guaranteed them." Like Hamilton's recommendations that Americans gradually draw immigrants into civic life to "enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments," Roosevelt stated that, "...with reference to the Americanizing of newcomers to our shores. We must Americanize them in every way, in speech, in political ideas and principles, and in their way of looking at the relations between church and state."
At the same time, like the Founders he considered the patriotism of the native-born even more crucial to the health of the nation: "It is not only necessary to Americanize the immigrants of foreign birth who settle among us, but it is even more necessary for those among us who are by birth and descent already Americans not to throw away our birthright, and with incredible and contemptible folly, wander back to bow down before the alien gods whom our forefathers forsook.
More than thirty-five years later in the 1930s Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Americanization were incorporated in the Federal Textbook on Citizenship Training . The following material is taken from my grandmother's copy of this document. The textbook includes a five-page chapter on the life of Theodore Roosevelt. At the end of the chapter, four "Topics For Discussion" are listed. They include: (1) Why Roosevelt was a great man. (2) Important things he did. (3) Stories you have read about his life. (4) Roosevelt's idea of Americanization. The chapter concludes in the following manner:
Theodore Roosevelt had great confidence in the American people and he trusted them to support him in his reforms. Because of his fairness, courage, plain ways, and efficiency, he was deeply admired and loved. He loved America above all else and his last public message was a plea for the 'complete Americanization of our people' in which he said:
'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 man's becoming in very fact 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, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile.....We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one soul (sic) loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.''' (ellipses in the original).
Today, many, will no doubt cringe as they read these words. My grandmother did not cringe; she studied them; passed the test; and became an American citizen. Contemporary sensibilities, not withstanding, this was the language of a self-confident elite, an elite that was more successful than any other leadership class in history in integrating millions of culturally diverse foreigners into the nation's fabric. This was the language of a nation that would be prepared to meet the sacrifices of World War II. In my grandmother's case, this was the language of a nation that in the cause of freedom would send one of her sons to fight against her cousins in Sicily, the land of her birth, in July 1943.
President Woodrow Wilson was a bitter rival of Theodore Roosevelt. But on the issue of assimilating immigrants they sounded very much like each other, and like the 18th century Founders. Thus, at a ceremony in Philadelphia in 1915, President Wilson welcomed newly naturalized citizens. He praised the contributions of immigrants and spoke of their obligations to America. Then, he told the newcomers:
"I certainly would not be one even to suggest that a man cease to love the home of his birth and the nation of his origin--these things are very sacred and ought not to be put out of our hearts--but it is one thing to love the place where you were born and it is another to dedicate yourself to the place to which you go. You cannot dedicate yourself to America unless you become in every respect and with every purpose of your will thoroughly Americans. You cannot become thoroughly Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American, and the man who goes among you to trade upon your nationality is no worthy son to live under the Stars and Stripes."
However, it was not only old stock leaders who believed in patriotic assimilation. This theme of patriotic assimilation or Americanization was also repeated by successful leaders who were first- generation Americans. One of the most prominent among them was Louis Brandeis, a major progressive, a leading political ally of Woodrow Wilson, and later a Supreme Court Justice. In an important address at Faneuil Hall in Boston on July 4, 1915, Brandeis echoed many of the sentiments of Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Roosevelt and Wilson. He declared:
"What is Americanization? It manifests itself, in a superficial way, when the immigrant adopts the clothes, the manners, and the customs generally prevailing here. Far more important is the manifestation presented when he substitutes for his mother tongue the English language as the common medium of speech. But the adoption of our language, manners, and customs is only a small part of the process. To become Americanized the change wrought must be fundamental. However great his outward conformity, the immigrant is not Americanized unless his interests and affections have become deeply rooted here. And we properly demand of the immigrant even more than this,--he must be brought into complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations and cooperate with us for their attainment. Only when this has been done will he possess the national consciousness of an American."
In evoking the need for new citizens to adopt the "national consciousness of an American," Louis Brandeis echoed Alexander Hamilton's call for all Americans to embrace a "national spirit" and a "national character." Both the Hamilton and Brandeis positions are clear examples of a "patriotic assimilation" that includes aspects of ideological and some cultural integration combined with a strong emotional attachment to American liberal democracy. It is significant to note that at the time of his Faneuil Hall address Brandeis was head of the Provisional Executive Committee for Zionist Affairs and deeply involved in efforts to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This suggests that early 20th century Americanization was more pluralist than often portrayed and compatible with voluntary ethnic, religious, and other subcultural affiliations, affections, and activities.
In response to the mass immigration at the turn of the century Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1906-07 that strengthened citizenship requirements. Specifically, Congress required new citizens to be able to speak English, answer questions about American history and government, and find two witnesses to vouch for their moral character. In addition, political opponents of the American "proposition" such as anarchists were forbidden to become citizens. Later in the century, the obligation to "serve in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law" was added to the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance. As Philip Gleason noted in his seminal Harvard Encyclopedia essay on "American Identity and Americanization" interest in issues of assimilation and Americanization "began to wane" with the immigration restrictions of the 1920s until they were revived in the 1960s. With the new wave of immigration after changes in Immigration law in 1965 one heard little about Americanization and much about cultural pluralism and multiculturalism. However, by the late 1990s the idea of Americanization was slowly beginning to make a comeback. Two books, Assimilation, American Style , by Peter Salins and The Unmaking of Americans: How Multiculturalism Has Undermined America's Assimilation Ethic by John J. Miller, advocated support for the more or less traditional approach to patriotic assimilation and Americanization.
In the political sphere, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, a leading African-American statesman from Texas, became the new champion of Americanization and patriotic assimilation. A report to Congress by the U.S. Commission on Immigration that Congresswoman Jordan chaired in 1997 reiterated many of the traditional premises of American constitutional morality. For example, the report stated unequivocally that the United States is a nation "based on individual not collective" rights and that we should "continue to emphasize the rights of individuals over those of groups." In a public speech in August 1995 Congresswoman Jordan declared that the term "Americanization" had unfortunately earned a bad reputation because it "had been stolen by racists and xenophobes." It was, however, she insists, "our word and we are going to take it back." In that same speech Barbara Jordan echoed the traditional views of the Founders and of Americans like Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Louis Brandeis. She declared, "We are a nation of immigrants, dedicated to the rule of law. That is our history-and it is our challenge to ourselves...It is literally a matter of who we are as a nation and who we become as a people. E Pluribus Unum . Out of one many. One people. The American people."
II THE CHALLENGE: FROM AMERICAN LIBERAL DEMOCRACY TO
TRANSNATIONAL AMERICA OR POST AMERICA
In July 1916 the Atlantic Monthly published an article by Randolph Bourne entitled "Transnational America." Bourne, like his contemporary Horace Kallen, opposed assimilating immigrants into the existing American culture. More sophisticated than Kallen, Bourne believed that ethnic groups would not remain static, but be in a continuous state of flux. He hoped that mass immigration would transform America. In his classic Atlantic Monthly essay Bourne called for a "cosmopolitan federation of national colonies, of foreign cultures" that would result "not in a nationality, but a transnationality, a weaving back and forth with the other lands." Thus, in the future America would not be a land of "one people" (as in George Washington's letter to John Adams), but many different "peoples" with strong transnational ties. At that time, however, Bourne, Kallen, and other proto-multiculturalists were waging a losing battle against a patriotic elite led by men like Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Louis Brandeis.
In January 1998, the American Prospect published an article entitled "Multicultural Nationalism" by a former general counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that, essentially updated Bourne's "transnationalism" in contemporary terms. Unlike the intellectual Bourne who was for the most part a writer; the author of the American Prospect essay, T. Alexander Alienikoff, is an influential law professor and policy analyst, who served in a key position at the INS during the mid-1990s. Alienikoff (like Bourne whom he admires) states that "we need to move beyond assimilation," while recognizing that ethnic groups will change.
Alienikoff attacks the core argument in Peter Salins\rquote 1997 book Assimilation, American style, that immigrants have an implicit "contract" to assimilate to American ideals (including our political principles, the English language, and the work ethic.) Citing Bourne, he declares, "Salins thus repeats the old error of seeing America as fixed and placing the needed adjustment on the immigrant's side. A more accurate understanding pictures America as a contract under constant renegotiation." This "renegotiation" of the American "contract" (or proposition) is to be undertaken by "mutually respecting groups" (ethnic) which he labels the "constituent parts" of the nation. Alienikoff's substitution of "groups" for individual citizens is the mirror opposite of Woodrow Wilson's speech to new citizens in Philadelphia in 1915.
In important ways Alienikoff's position represents the views of a new post-patriotic elite that challenges the traditional assimilationist paradigm. Another key policy figure at the INS during the 1990s was deputy commissioner Robert Bach. Like Alienikoff, Bach before he came to the INS spent a good part of his career working to eliminate all distinctions between citizens and non-citizens. In 1993 Bach, then a university professor, was the major author of a Ford Foundation report on immigrant life in America. The report criticized traditional assimilation; endorsed non-citizen voting; stressed the importance of race, ethnicity, gender, and class; advocated that groups maintain distinct ethnic identities, and avoided whenever possible the word "citizen" preferring the term "established resident." Georgie Anne Geyer in her influential book Americans No More: The Death of Citizenship noted that Bach believed that "the problem in America may not be diversity but homogeneity." In other words, assimilation is more of a problem than a solution.
I mention Alienikoff and Bach because they are representive figures of a new type of post-patriotic elite that is very different from the assimilationist elite at the beginning at the 20th century. It is, indeed, difficult to achieve patriotic assimilation if the key policy people in a federal agency in charge of implementing immigration, citizenship naturalization, and assimilation policies prefer the civic philosophy of Randolph Bourne to Louis Brandeis. And as anyone who has ever worked in the bureaucracy knows, policy is carried out by the assistant directors and general counsels, the group that Italian political scientist, Gaetano Mosca, called the "second stratum."
Immigration Lawyers and Activists Challenge
Traditional Concepts of Citizenship
It is significant that throughout last few decades the leading scholars and activists who spend most of their waking hours thinking about immigration and naturalization have worked for the following measures that would weaken American citizenship.
For example, writing in the Wall Street Journal in March 1998 two leading law professors (Peter Spiro from Hofstra and Peter Schuck from Yale) complained that "since 1795" immigrants seeking American citizenship are required "to renounce 'all allegiance and fidelity' to their old nations." The law professors (like many immigration attorneys) advocate dropping this "renunciation clause" from the Oath.
Moreover, Spiro and Schuck suggest modifying the traditional
idea of the hyphenated American. Instead of Dominican-Americans
or Mexican-Americans who are loyal citizens while proud of their
ethnic roots; they prefer "dual nationals," people who
are both "Dominican and American," or "Mexican and
American," who retain "loyalties" to their
"original homeland" and vote in both countries.
Other examples abound:
Since the Warren Court decision in Afroyim v Rusk , (1967) it is very difficult for an American citizen to lose his citizenship unless he specifically renounces it. The 5-4 Afroyim decision written by Hugo Black overturned Felix Frankfurter's decision in Perez v Brownell (1957) that "it was within the authority of Congress under its power to regulate U.S. relations with foreign countries, to provide that anyone voting in a foreign public election loses American citizenship." In Perez , Felix Frankfurter (a close associate of Louis Brandeis, appropriately enough) argued the traditional view of American citizenship that had existed from the Founders to the 1960s. Justice Frankfurter declared that Congress was essentially correct in interpreting that voting in a foreign election shows "elements of an allegiance to another country in some measure, at least, inconsistent with American citizenship."
Furthermore, Frankfurter approvingly quoted the report of the Citizenship Board of 1906 that, "no man should be permitted deliberately to place himself in a position where his services may be claimed by more than one government and his allegiance be due to more than one." The four dissenters in Afroyim , Justices Harlan, Clark, Stewart, and White attacked the majority decision as "a remarkable process of circumlocution." They stated that the Warren Court majority simply presented an "unsubstantiated assertion that Congress did not have any general power" in the area of defining loss of citizenship, a power Congress had traditionally held for more than a century. Moreover, the dissenters noted that the majority "failed almost entirely to dispute" Frankfurter's reasoning in Perez .
General Assumptions among today's elites that work against patriotic assimilation The challenge to traditional patriotic assimilation is deeply embedded in many of the chief assumptions and presuppositions among today's elites. Let us list seven of these assumptions that work against patriotic assimilation.
(1) The culture group over the individual citizen.
Assumption one is that the key unit in society and the nation is not the individual citizen who forms voluntary associations and works with fellow citizens regardless of race, sex, or national origin, but the ascriptive group (racial, ethnic, or gender) that one is born into. This emphasis on race, ethnicity, and gender leads to group consciousness and a de-emphasis on individual achievement in schools, media, corporations and everywhere in society.
(2) A dichotomy of groups:
Oppressor groups vs. Victim groups with immigrant groups placed among the victims
Assumption two is that there are basically two types of groups: (1) "oppressor" groups (white males, Anglos) and (2) "victim" groups (blacks, Latinos including obviously many immigrants, women). As James Ceaser puts it, multiculturalism is not "multi" or concerned with many groups, but "binary" concerned with two groups, the hegemon (bad) and the Other (good) or the oppressor and the oppressed. Equity and social justice mean strengthening the position of the victim groups and weakening the position of the oppressor groups, hence group preferences are justified. Thus, equality under the law is replaced by preferences for traditionally victimized groups. Recently, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that illegal immigrants as a class are discriminated against, thus placing them into the victim status entitled to preferential treatment as a group.
(3) Group proportionalism as a societal goal
Assumption three is that victim groups should be represented in all institutions of society roughly proportionate to their percentage of the population or, at least, of the local work force. Thus, if women make up 52% of the population and Latinos make up 10% of the population, then 52% of all corporate executives, doctors, and insurance salesmen should be women and 10% should be Latinos. If not, there is a problem of "under representation" or imbalance that must be rectified by government and civil society. Thus, today, new immigrants are immediately analyzed through the broad and imprecise measure of group proportionalism.
(4) The values of all dominant institutions must be
changed to reflect the perspectives of the victim groups
Assumption four is that it is not enough simply to have proportionate numbers of minorities (including immigrants, legal and illegal) and women in major institutions of society (corporations, churches, universities, armed forces) if these institutions continue to reflect a "white Anglo male culture and world view." Different groups such as ethnic and linguistic minorities have different ways of looking at the world. Their values and cultures must be respected and represented within these institutions. They should not be expected to simply conform to the mainstream or dominant ("hegemonic") culture. At a U.S. Department of Education conference promoting bilingual education, SUNY professor Joel Spring declared, "We must use multiculturalism and multilingualism to change the dominant culture of the United States." He noted, for example, that unlike Anglo culture, Latino culture is "warm" and would not promote harsh disciplinary measures in the schools.
(5) The Demographic Imperative
Assumption five is that demographic changes require Americans to alter their value system. The demographic imperative tells us that major demographic changes are occurring in the United States as millions of new immigrants from non-Western cultures and their children enter American life in record numbers. At the same time, the global interdependence of the world's peoples and the transnational connections among them will increase. All of these changes render the traditional paradigm of American nationhood obsolete. That traditional paradigm based on individual rights, majority rule, national sovereignty, citizenship, and the assimilation of immigrants into an existing American civic culture is too narrow and must be changed into a system that promotes "diversity," defined, in the end, as group proportionalism.
(6) The Redefinition of democracy and "democratic
Assumption six is the redefinition of democracy from majority rule among equal citizens to power sharing among culture groups composed of both citizens and non-citizens. Former INS general counsel, T. Alexander Aleinikoff declares that "[w]e live in a post-assimilationist age" and states that majority preferences simply "reflect the norms and cultures of dominant groups" (as opposed to the norms and cultures of "feminists and people of color" ). James Banks, one of American education's leading textbook writers says: "To create an authentic democratic unum with moral authority and perceived legitimacy the pluribus (diverse peoples) must negotiate and share power. According to Banks, existing American liberal democracy is not quite authentic, real democracy is still to be created. It will come when the different "peoples" or groups that live within America "share power" as groups.
(7) We are entering a New Transnational Era that will
inevitably transform traditional ideas of liberal democratic
Assumption seven is that we are entering a new age of transnationalism that will transform the meaning of citizenship. The nation-state is seen as an increasingly outmoded entity, unable to cope with the global problems of the 21st century. During the 1990s "cutting edge" theorists promoted multiculturalism over a common American culture; today they herald the coming of transnationalism. A recent president of the American Sociological Association, Alejandro Portes, suggests that concepts of citizenship and community are not "static," and thus, "transnationality and its political counterpart dual citizenship, may not be a sign of imminent civic breakdown but the vanguard" of "new notions" for "the next century." The distinguished University of Chicago anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has suggested that the United States is in transition from being a "land of immigrants" to becoming "one node in a postnational network of diasporas." Transnationalism is by definition "post-constitutional." That is to say, it is beyond the reach of constitutional limits. Thus, it must be distinguished from internationalism which is concerned with relations among nations, and issues such as the benefits of freer trade and peaceful cooperation among nation-states.
The Nature of the Challenge
As we have seen, for more than thirty years the traditional principles that have guided American ideas of citizenship and assimilation have been challenged at the deepest level. Francis Fukuyama wrote in his influential work The End of History that the great ideological arguments have been decided for all time because liberal democratic principles have triumphed philosophically. Thus, Fukuyama insisted their fulfillment in practice was inevitable and would eventually occur everywhere in the world. But Fukuyama was profoundly wrong. We are today (particularly in the United States the original home of constitutional democracy) in the middle of the most fundamental arguments over political ideas. We talk of a "culture war," but this is misleading because the arguments over American citizenship, assimilation, and immigration, are not simply cultural, but ideological and philosophical, in a word they are about political philosophy-in the sense that they pose the Aristotelian questions: What kind of government is best? How is one a good citizen? What is the best regime?
We are in the middle of an elemental argument about whether to preserve, improve, and transmit the American regime to future generations or whether to transform it into a new and different type of polity. In the terms of contemporary political science we are arguing about "regime maintenance" vs. "regime transformation." In the terms of Benjamin Franklin and the authors of the Federalist Papers we are arguing about whether we can "keep" our republic.
Thus, in the final analysis, the challenge to traditional American concepts of citizenship, patriotism, and assimilation is total and fundamental. It is a challenge to the "proposition," to the regime itself, or to American constitutional democracy. If our system is based not on individual rights, but on group consciousness; not on equality of citizenship, but on group preferences for non-citizens (including illegal immigrants) and for certain categories of citizens; not on majority rule within constitutional limits but on power-sharing by different ethnic, racial, gender, and linguistic groups; not on constitutional law, but on transnational law; not on immigrants becoming Americans, but on migrants linked between transnational communities; then the regime will cease to be "constitutional," "democratic," and "American," in any real sense of those terms, but will become in reality a new hybrid system that is "post-constitutional," "post-democratic," and "post-American."
III THE CLASH
The next several decades will witness a profound struggle between those who wish to preserve and perpetuate the American regime as it has been traditionally constituted, and those who wish to transform and transcend it into a new hybrid system in the name of transnational, multicultural, and demographic imperatives. No doubt the challenges to the core principles and civic culture of American liberal democracy that have emerged with such force in the late 20th century will continue well into the 21st century. How will it end? Will we preserve, perfect, and perpetuate the American regime? For guidance let us examine three crucial issues-or major battlegrounds-in the great philosophical and moral conflicts that lie ahead between American civic traditionalists and their post-American challengers. They are: (1) the maintenance of the traditional Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance for new citizens (2) the issue of multiple (dual) citizenships, and most importantly, (3) the nature of the assimilation that occurs among the new immigrants.
The Occupation of the Moral High Ground is Crucial
Great philosophical and ideological conflicts are usually dependent upon moral argument. This is particularly true in the United States, "a nation" as Chesterton put it, "with the soul of a church." As noted at the beginning of this essay, slavery and segregation were in principle inconsistent with American constitutional morality. They violated the fundamental principles and egalitarian spirit of our republicanism. Lincoln in the case of slavery, and Myrdal in the case of segregation, predicted that these evils would eventually be eliminated because they were contrary to the moral core of the American nation and, thus, would eventually be rejected.
The principal questions that we are examining of citizenship, assimilation, and the transmission or transformation of the American nation-state---could be boiled down to two moral questions----does the American civic regime have the right to perpetuate itself? Should it perpetuate itself? At the end of the day these questions will be decided by moral argument. American civic traditionalists have a strong moral case and they should not hesitate to defend on principle our constitutional morality and the principle of patriotic assimilation as articulated by America's leaders from George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to Louis Brandeis and Barbara Jordan.
(1) The Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance that new
citizens take to the Constitution
As noted the traditional Oath of Allegiance that new citizens take to the U.S. Constitution renouncing all previous allegiances to their former nation-states has been criticized by the same forces that are advocating an expansion of plural (dual) citizenship. These are crucial issues for American constitutional morality and patriotic assimilation.
At the end of the naturalization ceremony, the candidates for citizenship take the "Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance." Almost all observers agree that this is the most moving part of naturalization ceremony. This Oath is central to the constitutional morality that undergirds our liberal democracy. At the core of our constitutional democracy is the concept of self-government. In our system of republicanism, sovereignty resides with the American people. In taking the Oath, the immigrant is joining the American people and transferring full political allegiance (but obviously not all ties and affection) from his or her birth nation to the United States of America. This Oath-this transfer of allegiance is at the heart of naturalization. This is so, because to retain allegiance to a foreign state is to continue membership in another people and is inconsistent with the moral foundations of American democracy that as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution put it make us "one people." To retain allegiance to another constitution after promising sole allegiance to the American constitution, by definition, violates the spirit of our constitutional morality.
It is precisely because we are "a nation of immigrants" from all parts of the world-and because unlike many other countries our nation-state is not based on race, ethnicity, or religion, but on our constitutional principles, that allegiance should not be watered down for millions of new members. We must be serious about the Oath of Renunciation and Allegiance because of the kind of nation we are.
This spirit of our constitutional morality as "a nation of immigrants" was captured in an address to the candidates for citizenship by Mark Krikorian the President of the Center for Immigration Studies when he declared: "You entered this building as Poles, Mexicans, Filipinos, and Dominicans-but you will leave as Americans. Few countries in the world allow such a thing-an Irishman, after all, can't become Chinese, nor can a Salvadoran become a Nigerian. And yet each of you, from whatever country will soon become an American. This matter of taking American citizenship, becoming part of the American people, is not like getting a new job or changing apartments or putting on a new suit of clothes." Mr. Krikorian told the candidates that it was a "very serious thing" they were about to do more like "getting married\rdblquote or "adopting a new religion."
The naturalization process is not, nor should it be, a "barrier" or an "obstacle" to citizenship; but neither should it be a bureaucratic routine like obtaining a driver\rquote s license. It should be a vitally significant rite of passage between the status of candidate for citizenship and full citizenship, one that involves effort on the candidate's part-effort that is commensurate with the life-altering moral commitment he or she is making in joining the American people. Most importantly for all Americans (native-born and immigrant alike), a substantively and ceremonially-rich naturalization process is absolutely necessary for the type of active, informed, and loyal citizens that our constitutional democracy requires.
(2) Plural Citizenship Advances Transnational
Professor Peter Spiro, an advocate of dual citizenship and dual nationality, pointed out that these positions have for a long time been "draped in the heavy mantle of moral condemnation." He quotes the famous American historian, George Bancroft, who wrote that nations should, "as soon tolerate a man with two wives as a man with two countries; as soon bear with polygamy as that state of double allegiance which common sense so repudiates that it has not even coined a word to express it." Spiro notes also, that Theodore Roosevelt called the "theory" of dual nationality "a self-evident absurdity." The views of George Bancroft and Theodore Roosevelt could be contrasted with today's dual citizenship advocates. For example, Australian professor Gianni Zappala` remarked recently at one the many academic conferences on transnationalism that he is a multiple citizen eligible to vote in four different national and post-national political units, including Australia, Italy, Great Britain, and the EU. Moreover, he declared that he sees "no conflict" in any of this.
In effect, we are examining what Jessica Mathews of the Carnegie Endowment calls "neo-medievalism" in which transnational and subnational arrangements and loyalties weaken emotional attachment to the nation-state. Neo-medievalism, it turns out, is an apt term. Cornell professor Jeremy Rabkin, an expert on constitutional and international law, has pointed out that the American Founders rejected the medieval world of pre-democractic and transnational aristocracies in favor of the modern world that saw the introduction of the first liberal-democratic nation-state, the United States of America. The Founders were internationalists. They believed in the "law of nations" and good relations among nations-states, but they were not transnationalists who moved beyond the political structure of the nation to a trans-constitutional legality.
As a concept plural (dual) citizenship is consistent with a post-modern neo-medieval worldview of multiple national, trans-national, and subnational political loyalties. But it is totally inconsistent with American constitutional morality and the philosophical core of our liberal democratic nation-state-a compound system of republicanism (popular rule) and constitutionalism (limited government) as examined in the opening pages of this essay. At the heart of American self-government is the popular (or democratic) principle that sovereignty resides in a single American people "one people" as George Washington and Barbara Jordan noted.) As such, the American people is made up of individual citizens with equal rights and obligations. Equality of individual citizenship in a government based on natural rights (constitutional liberty) and the consent of the governed (self-government) is central to the American regime.
The notion of "dual citizenship," that is to say, individuals belonging to several "peoples" at the same time is inconsistent with the moral foundation of American democracy. In addition, dual citizenship violates the republican principle of equality of citizenship. It means that some citizens are more equal than others. It means that some citizens (dual citizens) are, in effect, supra-citizens because unlike other Americans they have voting power in more than one state and are loyal to more than one constitution. In this sense, they are like the aristocrats of the Middle Ages, such as the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, whose political loyalties moved beyond a single political state. Dual citizenship also violates our constitutional morality in the sense that the dual citizen is subject to other legal arrangements from foreign constitutions that are, by definition, beyond the scope of the U.S. Constitution. The plural citizenship arrangement is, therefore, trans or extra-constitutional and antithetical to our constitutional morality. Indeed, a neo-medieval transnational world, in general, means a post-constitutional world.
Recently, the dual citizenship issue has been intensified by the new Mexican dual nationality law of 1998. Shortly before the Mexican Congress passed the dual nationality law, Linda Chavez wrote in her syndicated column: "Never before has the United States had to face a problem of dual loyalties among its citizens of such great magnitude and proximity. Although some other countries -----such as Israel, Columbia and the Dominican Republic allow dual nationality----no other nation sends as many immigrants to the United States nor shares a common border. For the first time millions of U.S. citizens could declare their allegiance to a neighboring country."
Furthermore, Chavez explains that since the Supreme Court decision in Afroyim . "All of these changes, no doubt erode loyalty to the United States but, until now, have involved relatively few people. What is significant about the change in Mexican law is its potential to affect so many newcomers at a time when other pressures also diminish attachment to the immigrants" adopted nation. Unlike previous immigrant groups, Mexicans travel only a short distance...they can travel easily back and forth, keeping ties to their homeland stronger, but many live in large immigrant enclaves in the U.S. where Spanish is heard more frequently than English..."
John J. Miller, the author of one of the definitive works on assimilation, was also troubled by the Mexican dual nationality law. Writing in National Review on May 18, 1998 he stated that the new Mexican law "poses serious risks" to immigrant assimilation. He remarked: "Due to the large numbers potentially involved...it threatens in a way that other countries' dual citizenship has not, to erode the sentiments that have allowed the US to maintain national unity amid confounding levels of racial, ethnic, and religious diversity."
(3) The Nature of the Assimilation that occurs among
the new immigrants
In the end it is the type of assimilation that is crucial. There is no doubt that assimilation will occur in some form. For the most part, immigrants (and certainly the children and grandchildren of immigrants) will learn English and become more or less acculturated to the customs of American society. American mass culture is a powerful integrating force and should exert a strong influence on newcomers, particularly the young. However, whether this assimilation will be "patriotic" or only "popular cultural" is an open question. It is possible that most newcomers will assimilate "patriotically" to the core principles of American constitutional morality and adopt the American story and American heroes as their story and their heroes.
But, it is also possible that assimilation will remain at the level of mass popular culture and indifference to American patriotism. Or worse, newcomers could assimilate into the world of group consciousness, ethnic grievances and perpetual victimhood, in which case, they would become reflexively hostile to mainstream norms, patriotic sensibilities, and our traditional constitutional republican ideology of individual, not group rights. As Peter Skerry has pointed out many children and grandchildren of immigrants learn for the first time how "oppressive" and "undemocratic" America is from professors and bureaucrats at universities like Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard and Yale.
Gregory Rodriquez and others have shown that economic and mass cultural assimilation is occurring with homeownership and English language skills increasing among newcomers. However, the evidence regarding patriotic assimilation is troubling. The best evidence we have to date is a longitudinal study from the mid-1990s of 5,000 children of immigrants by Professor Rube`n Rumbaut for the Russell Sage Foundation. The study began when the children were in the ninth grade (around 13 years old) and concluded four years later when the students were around 17. The study showed that after four years of American high school the children of Mexican and Filipino immigrants were fifty percent more likely to self-identify themselves as Mexicans and Filipinos than as Mexican-Americans, Filipino-Americans or unhyphenated Americans. Overall, there were major decreases in the students identifying themselves as either Americans or hyphenated-Americans and increases in students identifying themselves either by a generic ethnic category (Latino, Asian) or by national origin (Mexican, Filipino). Thus, what I have called "patriotic assimilation" or identification with America, actually decreased dramatically for the children of immigrants during one the most impressionable periods of a young person\rquote s life, the four years of high school.
Also new is the situation with the immigrant-sending nations, particularly with Mexico. In a recent study for the Center for Equal Opportunity, entitled "The Melting Border: Mexico and Mexican Communities in the United States," Latin American expert Robert Leiken has examined the Mexican government\rquote s policy of "acercamiento" or "getting closer" to "Mexican communities aboard," meaning Mexicans and also Mexican-Americans who are U.S. citizens living in the United States. Since 1990 the Mexican government has promoted bilingual education, specifically the learning of the Spanish language and Mexican culture in American classrooms. In many schools in California and the Southwest, American students of Latino descent are taught by Mexicans and Mexican-trained teachers and use Mexican textbooks. The Los Angeles Times reported that some American classrooms even fly Mexican, instead of American flags.
At the same time, the Mexican government lobbied vigorously for NAFTA and against California's Proposition 187 (that would have prohibited using non-emergency public funds, particularly educational, for illegal immigrants) and against California's Proposition 227 (that promoted learning English and restricted bilingual programs that emphasized Spanish acquisition over English). In addition, as noted previously, Mexican government policy has promoted dual nationality for Mexican citizens living in the U.S. and for their children who are U.S. citizens.
Leiken, while warning that the U.S. should remain alert to Mexico "crossing the line" in involvement in U.S. domestic affairs, sees the acercamiento policy as generally benign. He notes that through participation in groups like the many hometown associations that are encouraged by the Mexican government, Mexicans in the United States including those who become American citizens gain civic skills which foster both their integration into American society and their exporting of American democratic norms to their hometowns in Mexico.
Interestingly, Jorge Amselle, vice-president of the Center for Equal Opportunity that sponsored Leiken's study takes a much less benign view of Mexican government activities. Amselle wrote on October 12, 1998 in \i National Review: "The Mexican government through its promotion of bilingual education and of dual nationality and voting is actively subverting the assimilative process of Americanization not to mention that it is engaging in activities that would be condemned as 'Yankee imperialism' if the shoe were on the other foot. If we are ever going to get serious again about assimilating immigrants, one of the first demands must be: Mexico out of the United States."
Do Mexican government policies have an adverse effect on the assimilation of immigrants? Is Leiken or Amselle closer to the mark? Again, the key question is, what kind of assimilation are we discussing? Clearly, Mexican policies are in opposition to "patriotic assimilation," the Louis Brandeis concept that "the immigrant is not Americanized unless his interests and affections have become deeply rooted here" and he "possess[es] the national consciousness of an American." In this sense, the Mexican policy is much closer to Randolph Bourne's idea of "a transnationality" in America. At the same time, the budding alliance among Mexican hometown organizations in the U.S. and the Mexican government with Mexican-American organizations like Ford Foundation funded-- MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) means that when assimilation occurs it will not be into a mindset of individual rights and one American people, but into a world view of group consciousness and group rights. After all, MALDEF's entire history had been one of: (1) promoting group rights over individual rights; (2) opposing meaningful measures to assist immigrants learning English (like California's Proposition 227); (3) fostering ethnic grievances and group preferences; (4) fighting efforts to stop illegal immigration; and (5) even opposing measures to halt the flow of illegal drugs across the Mexican border, in the name of "environmental concerns." The "assimilation" that would be advanced in such circumstances would not be patriotic assimilation into the civic morality of American liberal democracy.
In the final analysis, there is a clash of national interests between the U.S. concern in Americanizing new immigrants and the Mexican government's insistence in fostering strong attachments (including those of a civic and political nature) between Mexican-Americans and the Mexican nation-state for the purpose of advancing Mexican interests. At this point, the interest of the U.S. in patriotically assimilating Mexican immigrants and the interest of Mexico in maintaining the strong allegiances of U.S. citizens is a zero-sum game. Nor does the advance of democracy in Mexico, necessarily promise to improve this situation, particularly since the new PAN government appears willing to pursue even more "transnationalist" political policies than the old PRI regime. All of this means that serious and skillful diplomacy will be required from the American side. While encouraging democratic and free market reforms and respecting Mexican national interests and sovereignty, American leaders must, in the end, insist upon our very real interest in patriotically assimilating Mexican immigrants into the American nation-state.
It is inevitable that at any conference on immigration and assimilation one of the participants will rise, quote Henry James, Henry Adams, or Henry Cabot Lodge or some other old Anglo-Saxon fuddy duddy to the effect that immigrants circa 1900 would never assimilate to American life. The speaker then ridicules the designated Henry, reminds us he was wrong and declares "we have been through all this before, the immigrants of today will Americanize just as they did in the past." This is good sport, guaranteed to get a few laughs; however, to employ the categories developed by Henry James' brother, the pragmatist philosopher, William James, this is a "tender-minded" (wishful thinking) as opposed to "tough minded" (realistic thinking) approach to the assimilation question at the dawn of the 21st century. The situation today is different from the early part of the 20th century in many respects. It is not 1900 anymore.
At that time, we had self-confident patriotic elites in politics, education, business, religion and civic associations that insisted that new immigrants Americanize. Today we have diffident and divided elites in all areas of civic life that are either promoting anti-Americanization policies such as multiculturalism and "diversity," or doing little (Peter Skerry describes this as the "laissez faire" approach to assimilation.) At that time, we insisted that the schools teach in English. Today, litigators ensure that many Latino children will be taught in Spanish for most of the school day. At that time, the federal government promoted Americanism and individual rights. Today it promotes group consciousness and group rights. At that time, citizenship naturalization was strengthened, today it has been weakened. At that time, no foreign government (not Italy, not the Austro-Hungarian empire) was on our border, or anywhere else, promoting bilingualism, biculturalism, and dual nationality. Today, the Mexican government is openly undermining the process of patriotically assimilating our new citizens. At that time, the United States had control of its borders. Today, border control is little more than a political game. At that time, immigration was ultimately slowed. Today it may be, as the new President of the American Sociological Association predicted, "perpetual." At that time, ocean travel and long distance communication were slow and expensive. Today, air travel and modern telecommunications are fast and cheap. As sociologist Alejandro Portes wrote in 1996, "if today's U.S.-bound immigrants faced the same economic and technological conditions as their European predecessors at the turn of the century, there would be no transnational communities."
Nevertheless, although there are major obstacles to patriotic assimilation that did not exist in the past, and despite elite opinion, there is strong evidence that the American people as a whole strongly support the traditional approach to assimilating newcomers to America. The latest report by Public Agenda, the respected social science research firm directed by Daniel Yankelovich and Cyrus Vance, reveals that Americans today, from all races and ethnic groups, think very much like our 18th century Founders and Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Louis Brandeis, and Barabara Jordan and support what I have called patriotic assimilation.
Thus, 87% of foreign-born parents and 88% of all parents believe that "schools should make a special effort to teach new immigrants about American values." Parents were asked "What should be a bigger priority" teaching students "to be proud of being part of this country and learn[ing] the rights and responsibilities of citizenship" or "focus[ing] on instilling pride in their ethnic group's identity and heritage?" By 79% to 18% parents of all races and ethnicities favored emphasis on "pride in and learning about America" over "focusing on pride in their own ethnic group's identity and heritage." Hispanic parents by 80% to 17% preferred "pride in America" over "pride in one's ethnic heritage." Foreign-born parents overall emphasized "pride in America" by 73% to 23% and African Americans by 66% to 29%. In fact, by 65% to 26% Americans believed that schools should "help new immigrants absorb America's language and culture as quickly as possible, even if their native language and culture are neglected."
For the past two centuries Americans have heeded Benjamin Franklin's admonition to "keep" our republic. We fought major wars to preserve our union and extend our freedom against an internal slave-holding elite in the 19th century and against external totalitarian powers in the 20th century. Today, those who support the traditional approach of patriotic assimilation as a means to preserve, perfect, and perpetuate America's constitutional republic need a tough-minded strategy that will consider the different circumstances of the 21st century. This strategy would include the vigorous arousal of public support against the elites who preach determinism by telling us that old style Americanization must inevitably give way to unstoppable "social forces."
To begin this effort and steel ourselves against determinism, we should turn to the first page of Federalist No. 1 and ponder Alexander Hamilton's words, "that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force."
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