Beyond the purely economic issue, however, there is the much deeper one that defines America -- to itself, to its immigrants and to the world. How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcome and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America.I think Zakaria hits upon an issue here that, for some reason, has been lost in the arguments over positive and negative impact of a growing number of immigrants. Immigration is more than an economic, zero-sum game. Immigration is also the adoption of a new country and creating new communities.
What will become of the epic stories of immigrants arriving on U.S. soil to make a new, better life for themselves and their family in light of the arguments we hear batted around today? How many of those immigrants have gone on to bring greatness, wealth and prestige to their adopted home?
There will always been lone individuals that will confirm the worst fears of those concerned about immigrants. We can either continue on as a land that cares more about your character and your drive than where you came from, or we can slip into destructive neo-protectionism and align ourselves with the failed practices of the Know-Nothing party that lies, deservedly, in the ash heap of American history.
Is this still the land that welcomes the tired, the poor, the huddled masses because we believe they believe they can become the best and the brightest? Or should we hang out our shingle that says "no foreigners need apply"?