Our “simon-pure Americans” are quite busy just now marshaling their forces. Professing high patriotism and undiluted Americanism, they are ready to march in solid formation up and down this great Republic. Spreading their propaganda in every nook and corner they hope to convince the people that immigration is a menace to national unity. “Shut down the gates of immigration,” they tell us, “or you will destroy your unity as a nation.”
Now facts are unpleasant things which the “patriots” do not like to encounter because they prevent them from reaching their objective. Facts are truths which the patriots may storm, but not destroy, and in this case, facts show that the slogan adopted by the patriots, “Immigration is a Menace to National Unity,” is not based on truth.
History shows, in spite of efforts to rewrite it, that the immigrant contributed very largely to the founding and upbuilding of this great nation. The immigrant has always been loyal to America – excepting the English Tories and a few Reds – and has never failed to take up arms in her defense. We find him at Lexington and Concord and Valley Forge. We meet him at Antietam and Gettysburg. We see him at Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, and in the Argonne Forest.
Every time that the life of America has been attacked or her unity endangered, the immigrant has responded voluntarily to the clarion call for help. He did not wait to be conscripted like our simon-pure Americans who monopolize patriotism in peace time. We must remember, too, that the immigrant gave generously of his hard-earned money to help America successfully prosecute the last war. In communities where the immigrants predominated, Liberty Loans were over-subscribed.
Since the days of the Puritan there has always been a sentiment against the immigrant, especially the religious* immigrant, and it is principally against him that the opposition is arrayed today. It is this sentiment that the patriots hope to commercialize. Of course, those who term themselves the “old-stock,” the “better element,” who form a sort of closed aristocracy, do not fear for the safety of the national unity What they fear is the coming dominance of the immigrant and his descendants, socially, politically, and religiously. In fact he has already acquired this in a very large degree in some centers.
But the immigrant has taken no unfair advantage of the old stock whom the patriots are now busy trying to arouse. He reached the position that he holds today through his ingenuity. He has obeyed faithfully the laws of God. The foreign-born woman does not consider it disgraceful to have more than two children, nor does she prefer to caress dogs instead of children. She does not spend her time in the divorce courts trading off husbands or breaking up the home, the foundation of the nation.
The immigrant is not impregnated with the virus of Malthusianism. He has a large family, works hard, makes untold sacrifices, saves money, acquires business, educates his children and contributes in many other ways towards the upbuilding of America.
The writer in instructing classes in citizenship has invariably found that the immigrant possesses a broader conception of what American institutions stand for than many of our native-born Americans. The immigrant has aspirations, principles and ideals which fit him to take his place among the most desirable of our citizens. I have always found him willing to uphold the underlying principles of our Constitution, and to grant everyone the protection of civil and religious liberty which the Constitution guarantees. This cannot be said of a very large number of Americans, especially those who label themselves one hundred per cent American.
The immigrant that always fights for America and upholds the principles of the Constitution is no menace to national unity. I repeat again for the benefit of all true lovers of this great country of ours, that the real and only menace to national unity is the “simon-pure American” who is never heard from in time of war, but goes about in time of peace stirring up religious intolerance, the great thing which the framers of the Constitution hoped to guard against when they inserted in the Constitution that Congress should make no law respecting religion, and that no religious test should be made a qualification for the holding of public office. We hope that Americans who really have the interest of this great country at heart will realize before it is too late that the menace to national unity is native to the soil, and that it is the native-born American who does not uphold the principles of the Constitution or the intent of its framers.
Forgive me for the sleight of hand, but the above article is not my own, but that of John McGuinness. It was actually published on July 1st, 1922, during a time of American history in which many viewed the Irish, Polish, and Italian immigration with fear and antipathy. Except for the elimination of some entire paragraphs that would have betrayed the real date of publication, I have republished it word for word. The only exception to this is the use of the word religious* with the asterisk, which originally read “Catholic.”
Indeed, there was an anti-Catholic sentiment in the early 20th century that pervaded American nationalists – not just because they were non-Protestants, but also because of the level of terror and violence they seemed to bring with them.
The point is here that there has always been a group against immigration into the country – and they have almost always been wrong. But as my last caveat, I would also say, the article above should not incise so deeply those who genuinely argue ONLY against illegal immigration. But to those who argue against immigration in toto – you “simon-pure American” – remember your ideological ancestors who likely argued against your biological ancestors’ immigration to this country.
To see the entire article, go to https://books.google.com/books?id=nVk_AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA248. Credit: America: A Catholic Review of the Week, Vol 27 (Apr-Oct 1922), New York: The America Press, pp. 248-250.