- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

“There is no country on Earth where legal values play a more prominent role in the nation’s conception of itself than the United States,” Mary Ann Glendon, a distinguished law professor at Harvard, writes in an essay on immigration in the current issue of the journal First Things. “That was one of the first things Tocqueville noticed in his travels here in the early 1830s, and, as the country has grown larger and more diverse, its reliance on legal values has become ever more salient.” A government of laws, not of men, is what such thinking aspires to, and on the eve of the annual celebration of the founding of the nation, it remains the clearest reason for tough immigration reform.

This newspaper is pro-immigrant and pro-rule of law; we have no sympathy for illegal immigration or tolerance for those who scoff at our laws. We seek a government which meets the challenges of the laws the representatives of the people have enacted to foster more orderly immigration; we seek a government which heeds the will of the people for still better laws. We know and cherish America as a nation of immigrants and children and grandchildren of immigrants. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a son of one of the early American families, once addressed a convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution as “my fellow immigrants.” Ronald Reagan observed that America is the only nation on the planet where a new citizen is as much an heir to the rights and traditions of his new country as one who traces his ancestry to the founding of the nation. We know and cherish the common culture to which immigrants assimilate.

This is the only true constitutionalist position: to welcome the immigrant and to honor the law which governs the immigrant’s entry. Constitutionalism is under assault by a constellation of interests, corporate and otherwise, which are bolstered intellectually by the ideology of “open borders” on the right and by multiculturalism on the left.

The Immigration Act of 1965 created the most welcoming migration regime of any modern industrial democracy to which masses of immigrants seek entry. The 1986 amnesty not only ratified that regime but signaled the jettisoning of early- and mid-century schemes for immigration restrictionism. This is history and fact.

The United States remains the most hospitable country to the world’s immigrants — the country which accepts the largest number of immigrants by far, which holds the greatest attraction to foreigners, which offers the best promise of citizenship and where the greatest economic rewards await. This, too, is history and fact.

We regard America’s humane treatment of immigrants, and America’s allure to foreigners, as two of our country’s greatest strengths. Few Americans, and certainly not us, seek a departure from that standard. We seek modification of laws only to protect our communities and to ensure respect for the law as the surest way to protect the immigrant’s dream of a better life. That’s what American voters want, and it’s what the political leadership whom those voters elected must deliver.

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