Salvo 04.18.2024 8 minutes

Modern American Restrictionism

U.S. Border Wall Fence

We must strive to recover American sovereignty or the Democrats will continue to terraform our country.

One hundred years ago next month, Congress capped off a series of restrictions on immigration by passing the bipartisan Johnson-Reed Immigration Act. After decades of unprecedented immigration, America in the early part of the last century widely embraced restrictionism.

In fact, Americans of both political parties and across different income levels supported an end to the mass immigration that prevailed for much of our nation’s history. They pressed their representatives to pass laws to limit the number of new immigrants and even placed controls over their country of origin.

We might recoil at many of the restrictions of past eras like the Chinese Exclusion Act. But these widespread restrictions were not, as history has painted them, borne only of nativist fears or widespread xenophobia. Instead, Americans had common sense concerns about the ability of a country, even one as historically welcoming as ours, to effectively manage demographic change.

In the wake of a breathtaking influx of illegal aliens into our country in recent years, aided and abetted by the Democratic Party for nakedly political ends, the trends that 1920s Americans reacted to are before us again. But this time, both the numerical scope and the risk of the moment are greater.

Risk is the right word, but what risk specifically? Not just the risk of near unprecedented social and cultural change, guaranteed by the importation of a massive alien population into our society and cheered on by advocates who think assimilation a dirty word. No, the risk ahead is whether America can recapture its sovereignty. The cost to reestablishing American sovereignty will be high and fiercely fought against. If the Democrats can so brazenly and wholeheartedly engage in unchecked social and demographic engineering, especially in wanton disregard for the national legislature, the consequences for our political union will be dire.

The Regime’s Gaslighting Campaign

The American people support the deportation of illegal aliens.

Despite this, Americans are continually subjected to a psychological pressure campaign from the media which insist that actually enforcing current immigration law and deporting illegal aliens will signal the arrival of fascism. Anything absent America turning itself into an international refugee center, they maintain, will usher in despotism and authoritarianism. Mass deportation is painted as a militaristic nightmare, a return to an old and terrible nativism. Should a future president get serious about immigration policy, the media will undoubtedly make vague but ominous threats that mass protests and violence, like what they hinted at during the city-swallowing, pro-amnesty marches of 2006, are supposedly right around the corner.

Convincing a sizable chunk of the electorate of this lie may result in lives lost, as the street-level agitators of the Left imagine themselves defending downtrodden refugees escaped from war torn nations, despite what the caravan influencers show us daily.

The project to regain control of our nation’s borders will inevitably entail real risk, but such is the cost of our opponent’s quest for unchallenged political primacy. The sooner we can recognize the media frenzy that will result as we begin to take our borders seriously again, the better we can prepare the American people for the severity of the gaslighting they’ll face.

As part of their campaign, the media will claim that mass deportation is impossible to achieve, impractical, unruly, and chaotic. The argument is that restoring order is too disorderly, which Democratic politicians will endeavor to make sure of in practice.

We must reject these absurd double standards and consistently remind the American people of how effective the Biden Administration has been at trafficking millions of people into the country. The federal government has helped import millions of illegals across thousands of miles and several states with alarming efficiency and determination. Illegals are being moved into the country’s interior by plane, train, and automobile—and all on the American worker’s dime.

Americans must understand the sheer determination of Biden and the Democrats and recognize the serious infrastructure they put into place to make illegal entry into this country relatively easy. Unruly it has been, but also shockingly rapid and efficient. And they must see the human suffering and chaos the Left has already countenanced to realize their political goals.

Recognizing the regime’s psychological manipulation is just one part of preparing for the full costs our opponents will attempt to exact. Their response will consist not only of the street-level domestic unrest and property destruction the country now tolerates, but a range of other potentially even more destabilizing scenarios.

The Cost of Mass Deportation

Blue state mayors and governors currently complaining about the costs of welfare for illegal aliens are going to soon have Donald Trump to showboat against. They will once again turn into rebellious advocates of sanctuary cities and take seriously their ideological commitment to nullify federal laws they don’t like. Importantly, they will seek to make deportations impractical and unruly.

Recall the standoff between Texas and the Biden Administration at a state park as the latter sought to ferry illegal aliens into our country against the wishes of the state. Now imagine that standoff at Randall’s Island. Or at O’Hare. Imagine similar scenarios in dozens of locations around the country at once as federal officials seek to enforce existing immigration law. The idea of a border crisis is replaced by the reality of dozens of mini-rebellions in a country where one party’s politicians explicitly pledge their allegiance to non-citizens.

Recall the mass protests of the Trump years, the public intimidation of Trump officials in the federal capital, and the attacks on ICE facilities in the 2010s. Now, picture what Democrats will do if they sense we truly intend to stop their massive social and demographic engineering strategy.

America is about to enter into a period in which seemingly academic arguments about dual sovereignty will get much less theoretical. The widespread nullification efforts of Democrats are about to become very real and bitterly tested.

America will likely face a number of untested scenarios that go beyond the scope of local officials failing to cooperate with ICE agents. We will have entered a surreal period where local officials—and potentially state National Guard units—may be called upon to prevent federal officials from enforcing federal law.

Ambitious Democratic governors and mayors, along with a network of globalist non-profit activists, will try to thwart the return of adherence to and respect for the laws that the American people previously enshrined via their national legislature.

The stakes during this time will be existential—existential because either order and federal authority to enforce existing law will prevail, or the immigration issue in America will be permanently settled by those engaged in extralegal means while the federal government is exposed as impotent to enforce the Constitution.

Those are not conditions that can sustain a political union. In the absence of mass deportation, American sovereignty will be forfeit in practice as caravans wait to enter our country until the next time a Democrat comes to power. The U.S. therefore has no choice but to embrace the removal of these individuals through the most efficient means possible.

In one four-year term it is now typical for a Democratic president to let in ten million people in direct contravention of federal law. Unless we shrink that number by a similar amount, the Democrats’ social engineering efforts will remain a permanent feature with nary a law passed. One party unilaterally enacting this degree of change absent legislation not only threatens the character of the country but the rules we agreed to live under together in our political union.

A Republican president seeking to enforce currently-on-the-books immigration laws will be acting at the apex of his legitimate presidential power, and supported with legislation and the federal government exercising its primacy over immigration policy. This should provide that president confidence in carrying out his democratic duties.

Contrast that to the autocratic fashion in which the Biden Administration swiftly built up the infrastructure for one of the biggest mass movements of human beings in history absent any legislative backing. They reversed the mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, conjured a series of extralegal authorities, and essentially deputized non-state actors such as religious nonprofits and human traffickers as the executors of their strategy.

The legitimacy carried by the next administration’s mass deportation efforts must be coupled with the same swiftness and efficiency, and the same maturity of infrastructure.

Envisioned Restrictionism

Our great country is headed for a necessary and unavoidable showdown. Yet, as we stare into the abyss, we need to articulate what the future will look like. We must envision a modern American restrictionism and argue for it as overdue, welcome, and necessary.

If successful, a restrictionist movement can and should unite Americans across the political aisle, if not the formal leadership of both parties, around three things:

First, mass deportation is necessary to undo the destabilizing human disaster allowed under modern Democratic presidencies. Deportations now will preserve the melting pot for posterity.

Second, there must be a pause in immigration where we—amidst our contested elections and the rise of political violence directed not at foreigners but at each other—can let the body politic settle. Put more specifically, America should not only permanently secure our border but put a temporary end to legal immigration as well until at least the end of this decade. Let the melting pot work so that we can again learn to work together.

And third, we should resume our traditional worldwide entry program under specific numerical control in the 2030s, with merit as a factor in some cases. Immigration is not a dirty word in America. By returning to a state of lawfulness, we can reset our country’s historically healthy relationship with immigration.

These steps will fortify the iron of the American melting pot for future generations and reestablish us as a united people once again.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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