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Immigration in Historical Perspective

UCB 2005 Ph.D. Drew Keeling of the University of Zurich has a piece in the LA Times on immigration:

In immigration debate, echoes of Ellis Island: [I]mmigration… [in] the early 20th century, when it was overwhelmingly legal, documented, lightly regulated and European…. Millions of newcomers then were readily absorbed… the main objection was… that it was… filling America… with foreigners of unfamiliar tongues and customs… nonetheless… a familiar ring today. Both sides… praised immigration… while disagreeing as to whether newer arrivals were somehow fundamentally less desirable than those of yore….

[Theodore] Roosevelt's own calculated ambivalence--"We cannot have too much immigration of the right sort, and we should have none whatever of the wrong sort"--placated both pro-immigration and anti-immigration voices, partly because it was accompanied by beefed-up, yet relatively noncontroversial, border monitoring and inspections…. Today's Republican Party has no comparable roster of recent achievement to which inconsistency on immigration policy might become a comparatively inconspicuous footnote…. It was easier for Roosevelt's "Party of Yes" to occasionally say no than it will be for House Speaker John A. Boehner's "Party of No" to make an exception and say yes….

In 1906, when the divergence between the House and Senate was the opposite to that of today, pro-immigration Republicans in the House, working through the Republican administration of President Roosevelt, were eventually able to offer substantive yet not crippling concessions that secured support from enough restrictionist Republicans in the Senate to pass a mostly pro-immigration bill. Is it a stretch to expect that such an internal Republican compromise on a generally pro-immigration bill can be reached in the current Congress?… If Republicans reject immigration reform again, the party risks being blamed for scuttling a rare opportunity for a "do-nothing" Congress to accomplish something noteworthy.