The Uselessness of Stopping Immigration
The History of American Policies Against Immigrants in Order to Insure National Security
The United States’ recent passage of the Patriot Act has created a furor amongst civil rights groups and a corresponding reaction amongst security “hawks.” An aspect missing from the current debate however is the history of similar laws and practices. Another aspect missing is an examination of the historic “loyalty” amongst the native born and the immigrant. Herein the major precursors of the Patriot Act are examined not only for content but also for effectiveness. Starting with the earliest, the Alien Act, and continuing through the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Japanese Internment all major acts combining immigration and national security are addressed.
The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed in 1798 by the Federalist party in order to not only ensure national security in times of war but also to prevent the unlawful slandering of the president or government (Alien Act 3). Critics, probably justifiably, labeled the Sedition Act as designed to thwart the influence of Thomas Jefferson’s fledgling Democratic-Republican party. The Alien Act, however was much more important for our purposes here. It provides for the removal of “all foreign nationals, being male and over 14 years old” and for them to be “apprehended, restrained, secured and removed.” (Alien Act) If any charge can be brought against them they can be prosecuted within any of the courts in the US, local, state, and supreme courts. If they are found to be “chargeable with actual hostility” they will be “secured” until they can make provisions for their “goods and effects for removal.” The law in effect gives the President the authority to deport all foreign nationals in time of war.
The Alien Act, like the Sedition Act, was never implemented by the government. In fact the Democratic-Repulican party used outrage over the Alien and Sedition Acts in order to sweep into power in 1800. While the Alien Act was never used much it did scare a number of people out of the US, particularly the residual French nationals left from the American Revolution. However the Alien and Sedition Acts were castrated by public opinion very quickly and their most important legacies lie in likewise castrating President Adams and alienating the formerly friendly French.
The next legislation of note is the Chinese Exclusion Act. This act was in response to the influx of Chinese labor escaping China and settling in California. As the railroad building boom reached it’s climax Chinese immigrants were heavily recruited as cheap labor by railroad companies. In the 1860’s they were considered polite, hard working, self sufficient, and clean. However as the labor market became saturated these “happy” stereotypes morphed into secretive, greedy, clannish and anti western. This was further developed into their being a “threat to good order” and took on a security aspect as well. Ironically the primary lobbying to illegalize Chinese immigration was done by the Knights of Labor. The Knights of Labor were a massively powerful labor union otherwise notable for incorporating blacks and women (Boyer 567). However they used vicious racist tactics to stigmatize Chinese. Largely because they were perceived as a threat to labor they were villianized.
The Chinese Exclusion Act itself is designed to vigorously exclude any Chinese person from coming to the US “and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or, having so come after the expiration of said ninety days, to remain within the United States.” Chinese being stranded in the US due to some problem at sea are to be carefully tracked during their stay. “Chinese laborers, which shall be entered in registry-books to be kept for that purpose, in which shall be stated the name, age, occupation, last place of residence, physical marks or peculiarities, and all facts necessary for the identification of each of such Chinese laborers, which books shall be safely kept in the custom-house; and every such Chinese laborer so departing from the United States shall be entitled to, and shall receive, free of any charge or cost upon application therefore, from the collector or his deputy, at the time such list is taken, a certificate, signed by the collector or his deputy and attested by his seal of office.” (Chinese Exclusion Act) The act was to be in effect for a period of 10 years but was extended twice before being made permanent in 1910.
The act had the effect of ending the immigration by Chinese into the US. China was so weak at the time that its protests were inconsequential. It did improve the security of the nation by reducing the number of race riots in California. Also it caused the price of labor to rise as the Knights of Labor and other unions consolidated their control over workers and further excluded Chinese from work. Thus, ghastly and racist as it was it was perhaps the most effective of all anti immigration laws put into effect in the US.
Executive order 9066 is the most recent precursor and is most similar to the Patriot Act in its purpose. It was designed so as it “requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities.” (Executive Order 9066) It also authorized the “The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary.” (Executive Order 9066) In other words it authorized internment into concentration camps. Also, much like in the Patriot Act, it authorized internment of any “Japanese” on suspicion alone and did not provide them with any legal recourse. (Korematsu) Suspicious people were almost exclusively Japanese community leaders, especially labor leaders (this seems to be confusing the racist Fascist Japan of WW2 with communism?). (Weber) The national hysteria of the time and fear of Japanese invasion can neatly be summarized in this excerpt from Korematsu “ we cannot reject as unfounded the judgment of the military authorities and of Congress that there were disloyal members of that population, whose number and strength could not be precisely and quickly ascertained. We cannot say that the war-making branches of the Government did not have ground for believing that in a critical hour such persons could not readily be isolated and separately dealt with, and constituted a menace to the national defense and safety, which demanded that prompt and adequate measures be taken to guard against it.“
This measure was largely ineffective. Not one case of sabotage by Japanese Americans has ever been reported (Weber) from the WW2 era. This can hardly be seen as a vindication of the policy however, Hawaii had a sufficiently large Japanese American population that they could not be interned without ruining the local infrastructure and still there was no sabotage. The anti Japanese hysteria did have at least one very important consequence however. In order to limit the opportunity for sabotage American planes in Pearl Harbor were rolled out of their armored hangars into the middle of the taxiways on December 7 1941.
All of these policy’s operate under the assumption that natural born citizens are more loyal than immigrants. This is in spite of the widely ignored fact that the natural born citizen has made no effort to become a citizen where the immigrant has, and often has made a huge effort. The effort is often based on the assumption that the immigrant is more likely to engage in acts of espionage than the native born. While the secretive nature of espionage makes direct study difficult the names and information of known traitors is often made public. The interesting thing about them is that they are almost universally betraying their country of birth. Also they are very nearly all well educated people from high class non immigrant families.
From a list of high profile spies against the US that have been captured nine of nine have spied against the country they were born into. Only one spied for “his people.” Aldrich Ames sold out twenty five operatives for almost twenty million dollars. The people he exposed all ended up with large caliber holes in the back of their heads. He was a well educated middle class man born in Wisconsin. Christopher Boyce and Andrew Doulton Lee, from California and Connecticut respectively, sold numerous military secrets to the USSR. The motivation seems to be thrill seeking. Richard Hanssen, the all American religious man from Illinois sold Russia secrets relating to “the tunnel” in exchange for diamonds. The tunnel was an operation for tracking Russian operatives in the US. The Cambridge Spies, all graduates of Cambridge and native born Englishmen, managed to get nearly all of the correspondence of Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt into Stalin’s hands. Klaus Fuchs was a German scientist who left his native West Germany to help with the Manhattan project. After the war, however he sold the scientific information to the USSR, knowing full well West Germany would likely be the battleground in a US-USSR nuclear war. Alger Hiss was a rich young man from Baltimore. He became politically radical as a reaction to his conservative parents (his dad committed suicide) and proceeded to sell the confidential material passing through the Supreme Court. The Walker Spy family sold massive quantities of sensitive military information to the USSR during the 70’s and 80’s. They were a group of American born navy sailors with a history of con jobs. The only spy I found who sold out the US for the sake of his “people” was Jonathan Pollard. Pollard was an American born Jew who sold military technology to Israel in the 60’s, and changed them outrageous sums for it.
Viewed in a historic context the success of Patriot Act type bills has been minimal. They usually target the wrong people and are dependent on hysteria for their support. Furthermore immigrants have historically proven incredibly loyal and thus make dubious targets for added security measures.
Chinese Exclusion Act. Executive Order 9066.
Alien and Sedition Acts
The Japanese Camps in California by Mark Weber (off internet http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v02/v02p-45_Weber.html)
Boyer, Paul S; Clark, Clifford E. Jr; Kett, Joseph F; Salisbury, Neal; Sitkoff, Harvard; Woloch, Nancy. The Enduring Vision, A History of the American People Vol.2. 2004. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston.