Americans call themselves a nation of immigrants, but ever since colonial days, immigration and resistance to immigration have been wound together as tightly as a double helix. What’s currently being said about Latinos was said a century ago about Italians, Slavs, Greeks, Jews, Armenians, Turks and Asians and before that about the Germans and the Irish. What’s different now is that, in a globalized world, attempts to “seal” the borders lead almost inevitably to unintended consequences: increasing numbers of permanent illegal aliens, outsourcing of industries and jobs, exploitation of workers and, as with Arizona’s SB1070, foreign policy problems. What’s needed to address both illegal immigration and a host of related issues is a very different, multinational approach.
Peter Schrag, who served for 19 years as editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, is a lifelong journalist. He has also taught journalism, public policy and government at UC Berkeley and written several books, including Not Fit for our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America, which was published in May 2010.