The United States of America current stance on immigration has not always been antagonistic to immigrants. In fact, the United States, as a capitalist country, has historically thrived on immigrant workers to expand the economy. This was the only way in which the United States would grow and become competitive and innovate, so as to become the current center of the world for commerce, trade. A free-market capitalist would logically always support immigration to keep replacing the workforce and keep wages down, knowing that they could pay immigrants less because the immigrants represent a cheap labor force. The Americans brought slaves from Africa knowing that it was unethical, but free labor made for large profits and to kickstarted the U.S. economy as a whole. These examples are not an argument for a capitalist system that pays their workers little or nothing but simply to illustrate that we live in capitalist society, and need immigrants have always been the source of growth, so we must consider the reasoning behind the current harsh and discriminatory immigration laws and the path to U.S. citizenship and how we should reform them for the benefit of all people.
The United States first passed legislation on obtaining citizenship in 1790, in a law called the Naturalization Act. It stated that if you resided in the country for two years and you could show you had “good moral character,” you could earn citizenship. At that time, this law only applied to white Europeans — and mostly white Europeans from richer countries — but it recognized that there were many people in this newly formed Union that weren’t citizens. Of course the Act did not include the millions of slaves that weren’t counted as people but as property. The number of years to obtain citizenship back then fluctuated, but in 1802, the number five years. In 1798, Congress passed the first deportation act that allowed the president to deport or imprison an alien deemed dangerous to the United States. The two last important acts passed as regards to citizenship were the 14th Amendment, which created birthright citizenship and granted citizenship to former slaves, and the Chinese Exclusion Act, which basically didn’t allow Asians to work or become citizens.
In the early 1900s, the United States was having an economic boom, and hordes ofEuropeans from poor countries immigrated to America. As long as they were white and free from disease, they had a guaranteed opportunity to become an American citizen. The United States still needed workers to continue its expansion, but lawmakers passed an act in 1924 favoring Northern and Western European immigration and stated that still, only whites and Africans were eligible to become citizens.
Since then, these racist immigration have been repealed. But unfortunately, the United States hasn’t learned from its past mistakes.In the last 21st century, immigrants have been keeping our economy going when the birth rate is declining. Most importantly, the United States is viewed as a refuge and a place for economic opportunity. A quarter of the most US valuable companies — such as AT&T Big Lots Colgate and Google —were started by immigrants. Anti-immigrant legislation since 1990 has done nothing but fan the flames of white superiority complex, which was already very much there. The irony is that the United States was largely built on racist assumptions leading to an anti-immigration push, yet white Americans were immigrants too. The notion that we are continuing these discriminatory laws are hypocritical. The United States has been strengthening the southern border, making it harder to obtain work visas, created a Muslim ban, and lowering the refugee cap every year.
The United States needs to clean up its act and strive to become the nation it claims to be: welcoming to all. The much vaunted “American Dream” must be made true for all potential immigrants and for the benefit of the United States itself. But if we can’t rely on humanity and morality to convince our leaders to do the right thing then the obvious hypocrisy has been prevented. We must support immigrants choosing the United States and treating them like they belong. In a fast changing world, we can’t afford to continue down an exclusionary path of white supremacy because no matter who you are, everyone deserves the opportunity to have a good life.