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Benjamin Franklin’s American Dream

Today’s preferred way to think about immigration and the nation-state is exemplified in the title of a 1964 pamphlet that the Anti-Defamation League published posthumously under the name of John F. Kennedy: A Nation of Immigrants.  The next year, the martyred President’s brother Teddy had his name put on the 1965 immigration act of such large and unforeseen consequence.

The pages of JFK’s little book are seldom read anymore, but its mantra of a title has proved wildly successful at sacralizing mass immigration as some kind of hereditary national onus.  “My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. . . . That’s the tradition we must uphold.  That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come,” orated President Barack Obama as justification for his November 2014 demand that, when it comes to immigration, America must have a government of men and not of laws.

While the Preamble states that the Constitution is ordained so that “We the People of the United States” can “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” the concept of posterity has vanished from respectable immigration discourse.  The Obama amnesty invokes a civil right to be here that illegal aliens inherit, but not from their ancestors: Like insanity, amnesty is hereditary; you get it from your children.  After...

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