Freshman (person?) Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California clearly thought she had made a slam dunk point in the national immigration debate on July 4, when she sent out this tweet:
“A reminder this Fourth of July: it was eight immigrants who signed the Declaration of Independence. Happy Independence Day.”
And lots of the Twitter-verse evidently agreed, for the tweet received more than 132,000 “Likes” as of this morning. The messages she sought to send and that they received were clear: Anyone who diverges from the Open Borders gospel they’re preaching is ignorant of and maybe even opposed to fundamental American values, especially like inclusiveness and diversity; and these supposed nativists either don’t know or don’t want others to know that the foreign-born have made outsized contributions to the country’s historic success.
Unfortunately for Harris and her fans, she should have done a little more research. For it turns out that most of these eight immigrant signers of the Declaration shared another characteristic that’s consistent with another claim often pushed by many of Harris’ fellows on the progressive Left: that the Declaration signers and the Founding Fathers generally were white racists who have at best little to teach the nation today. (Click here, here, and here for some examples – the latter from a University of Michigan Law School professor, no less.)
Specifically, no less than five of the eight immigrant Declaration signers were slave-holders. Here’s the evidence for Button Gwinnett of Georgia and Robert Morris of Pennsylvania (both born in England, rather than in one of the thirteen colonies); for George Taylor of Pennsylvania (born in Ireland); for John Witherspoon of New Jersey (born in Scotland); and Francis Lewis of New York (born in Wales).
Even worse, two of the five (Morris and Lewis) were significant players in the slave trade.
Of course, many of the remaining 48 Declaration signers who were born in the colonies owned and/or traded slaves, too, along with other Founders. And why should anyone be especially surprised? All were products of their time. Some were honest enough with themselves to recognize the self-evident conflict between slavery on the one hand and the principles of liberty and freedom and equality that they espoused on the other. Some weren’t. Nor should this observation be the least bit surprising: Where they were born was completely irrelevant.
As for the Open Borders crowd in general, it needs to admit that, ethically speaking, in its view there’s no difference on average between foreign-born Americans, native-born Americans, immigrants, and aspiring immigrants either. You can throw in refugees and asylum seekers (real and fake) as well.
Let’s of course by all means continue to have a robust debate on U.S. immigration reform. But let’s focus on genuine policy dilemmas, like economic impact, financing the costs, proper assimilation measures, and national security screening, instead of trying to write a morality play. Dropping the immigration fake history (and Harris is hardly the first such trafficker in this genre) would be a great place to start.