LOCKING OUT THE IMMIGRANT
By JACOB G. HORNBERGER
America of the 1800s was the most unique society in the
history of man. People could engage in virtually any economic
enterprise without permission of their public officials.
People could become as wealthy as they wanted, and there was
nothing the government could do about it. They could dispose
of their money in any way they saw fit. And they could travel
anywhere they desired without a passport or other evidence of
governmental consent. This is what it once meant to be an
American. This is what it once meant to be free.
But perhaps the most unique aspect of American society of the
1800s was that reflected by the Statue of Liberty: free
immigration. For this was a society in which the citizenry
prohibited their public officials from interfering with the
right of people everywhere to come to the United States to
live and work.
What was the result of this unusual society--a society without
income taxation, welfare, social security, licensing,
passports, subsidies, economic regulations, and immigration
restrictions? The result was the most economically prosperous
nation in the history of man! And this despite the fact that
thousands of penniless immigrants, many of whom could not
speak English, were flooding American shores every day.
But prosperity for the poor was not the real significance of
our ancestors' policy of freedom of immigration. The true
significance is a much more profound one. For the first time
in history, oppressed and persecuted people everywhere had
hope--hope that if they were able to escape the tyranny under
which they suffered, there was a place which would accept
them. America was a beacon--a beacon of liberty which shone
through the darkness of oppression, persecution, and tyranny
throughout the world--a beacon which lit the hearts of
millions who knew that if they could just escape, there was a
nation, albeit faraway, to which they could flee.
But no longer--and not for many decades. While the Statue of
Liberty is a nice place for tourists to visit, it now stands
as an sad reminder of the rejection and abandonment by 20th-
century Americans of the principles of liberty on which our
nation was founded. And while the welfare-state, planned-
economy way of life most clearly evidences this rejection and
abandonment, the consequences, while bad, have not been as
evil and horrible as those resulting from the abandonment of
the principles of free immigration.
We must never forget that citizens are responsible for
wrongdoing by their own government--even when they consciously
choose to ignore it. The best-known example in recent times of
conscious disregard of wrongdoing by one's own government
involved the German people in the 1930s--when Hitler embarked
on his policy of extermination of the Jews. Most Americans
believe that under same or similar circumstances, the people
of this nation would act differently. Unfortunately, they are
wrong. Because what Americans have never been taught in their
public schools is that the American government, as well as
other Western governments (including Britain, Canada, and most
of Latin America), through their control of immigration,
sealed all avenues of Jewish escape from the Holocaust.
The sordid facts and details are set forth in two books: While
Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy by Arthur D.
Morse, first published in 1967, and The Holocaust Conspiracy:
An International Policy of Genocide by William R. Perl,
published in 1989. Morse was executive producer of "CBS
Reports" and the winner of numerous broadcasting awards. Perl
served as a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Intelligence Service,
worked in the Prosecution Branch of the War Crimes trials, and
later taught at George Washington University.
An American cannot read these two books without total
revulsion at the reaction of his own government to Hitler's
policies against the Jews. Both authors detail the methods by
which American politicians and bureaucrats, while maintaining
an appearance of great humanitarianism, used immigration
policies to prevent Germany's Jews from escaping to the United
States. Morse writes:
In 1938 the Nazis burned every synagogue in the nation,
shattered the windows of every Jewish establishment,
hauled twenty-five thousand innocent people to
concentration camps, and fined the Jews 1,000,000,000
marks for the damage.
Five days later, at a White House press conference, a
reporter asked the President, "Would you recommend a
relaxation of our immigration restrictions so that the
Jewish refugees could be received in this country?"
"This is not in contemplation," replied the President.
"We have the quota system."
The United States not only insisted upon its immigration
law throughout the Nazi era, but administered it with
severity and callousness. In spite of unprecedented
circumstances, the law was constricted so that even its
narrow quotas were not met. The lamp remained lifted
beside the golden door, but the flame had been
extinguished and the door was padlocked.
And Perl writes:
Anti-Semitism . . . was certainly a part of the anti-
immigration mood of the country, but it was not the sole
cause. This was 1938, the U.S. was still on the fringes
of the 1929 depression, and fear that newcomers would
take away jobs needed from those already in the country
was genuine. The fact that newcomers mean also increased
consumption, that many of them, as they actually did,
created new jobs rather than occupy existing ones was not
considered. . . .
President Roosevelt was first of all a politician, and a
shrewd and ruthless one at that. He was not going to
imperil his fragile coalition for moral or humanitarian
reasons. He was not ready to put it to a test over an
issue that, he knew, was loaded with emotion among
supporters as well as opponents and which was in summary
not popular at all. He was at that time preparing to run
for an unprecedented third term of the presidency, and
any rocking of the boat was out of the question. . . .
Yet, it was necessary to keep up the image of a great
liberal and humanitarian.
One of the most dramatic and tragic examples of the U.S.
government's immigration policy against the Jews was evidenced
by what has become known as "the voyage of the damned." Just
before war broke out in Europe, a German cruise ship loaded
with almost 1,000 Jewish refugees left Germany and headed to
Cuba--where friends and relatives of the passengers waited for
their loved ones. When the ship arrived, the Cuban government
refused to permit the Jews to disembark. When the ship began
moving close to American waters, the United States Coast Guard
closely followed to make certain that no Jew jumped ship and
Since no other nations were willing to accept the refugees,
the ship headed back to Germany where certain death awaited
its passengers. At the last minute, England and some of the
European nations reluctantly agreed to accept the refugees.
Unfortunately, many of those who went to Europe were later
killed under the Nazi occupation.
It is easy for present-day Americans to say, "We would never
let that happen again." Yet, we continue to permit our public
officials to control immigration. And the results of this
control point only in the direction of future catastrophe.
The U.S. government rightly criticizes the Soviet Union for
not letting Jews emigrate . . . but then is horrified at the
prospect of having to let Soviet Jews enter the United States.
The U.S. government rightly criticizes Vietnam for its
oppressive society . . . but then is horrified at the prospect
of having to let Vietnamese "boat people" enter the United
And on the southern border of the United States, good and
honorable people of the Republic of Mexico have been
incarcerated, year after year, in American concentration
centers for committing the heinous "crime" of trying to
sustain and improve their lives through labor. I personally
have been inside these concentration centers and visited with
these victims of 20th-century political tyranny, and I shall
never forget the looks on their faces--looks which asked, "Why
are you doing this to us?"
Free immigration is nothing to fear. As free-market economists
have shown for years (i.e., Julian L. Simon's 1989 book, The
Economic Consequences of Immigration), immigration is actually
an economic boon to a society. Of course, fears of huge
burdens associated with welfare, public schooling, and other
aspects of the welfare state are a legitimate concern. But we
should not use the welfare state as an excuse for rejecting
free immigration; instead, we should use freedom as a reason
for ending both the welfare state and immigration controls--
and for ending the real and potential evils and horrors
associated with them.
As walls separating people are crumbling all over the world,
it is time for us to tear down our walls. It is time for us to
recapture the spirit of liberty which guided our American
ancestors and lead the world to the highest reaches of freedom
ever known by man. It is time for us to let the world know
that its beacon of liberty is once again lighted for its poor,
its tired, its huddled masses yearning to breathe free!
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of
From the June 1991 issue of FREEDOM DAILY,
Copyright (c) 1991, The Future of Freedom Foundation,
PO Box 9752, Denver, Colorado 80209, 303-777-3588.
Permission granted to reprint; please give appropriate credit
and send one copy of reprinted material to the Foundation.