Becoming American

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 1 13:59:42 UTC 2007

Becoming American

By Stanley Renshon

Center for Immigration Studies | March 1, 2007


The long-delayed and much-needed national debate regarding immigration is
in danger of missing an essential point. The most important question to be
asked and answered is not how much new immigrants contribute financially
or what they cost. It is not even whether enforcement of our laws should
precede schemes for a guestworker program. The central question of
American immigration policy is how this country can help facilitate the
emotional attachments of immigrants and citizens alike to the American
national community. Given the centrifugal pulls of multiculturalism and
international cosmopolitans this is easier said than done.
Multiculturalists want to substitute racial and ethnic identities for an
American identity, while cosmopolitans think that emotional connections to
this country are too parochial and nationalistic and urge our citizens to
look abroad for their primary attachments.

This paper argues that our current laissez faire policy regarding the
incorporation of citizens and immigrants alike, our failures to enforce
immigration laws, and the doublespeak that characterizes our responses to
illegal immigration are deeply corrosive to the fabric of the American
national community. This country faces catastrophic dangers from abroad
and major policy issues at home. In such circumstances, pervasive public
feelings that reflect instrumental, shallow, or ambivalent emotional
national attachments are not only undesirable, but also dangerous. But
what can be done? Feelings of attachment cannot be mandated by legislation
or instilled by clarion calls to patriotism.

This paper spells out a set of proposals to help facilitate and deepen the
attachment of immigrants and Americans alike to our national community.

[Read the rest of this article at]


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