You might be surprised to hear that the United States’ first immigration law, passed by the Founding Fathers themselves, supported open immigration. In fact, this Monday, March 26, was the anniversary of the passage of the Naturalization Act of 1790.
While times have changed and such a policy is no longer feasible or desirable, it’s interesting to reflect on just how much the Founding Fathers’ thinking and values contradict some of today’s restrictive and punitive immigration laws. What might the Founding Fathers, who took a stance of zero restrictions on legislation, have to say about Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which requires local police to determine the immigration status of people they arrest and suspect are undocumented immigrants? Or Alabama’s HB 56, which requires schools to check the immigration status of children? It’s hard to imagine them not condemning these states’ leading roles in anti-immigrant rhetoric and punitive legislation.
Alex Nowrasteh, the inspiration for this post and a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has an interesting take on the Naturalization Act. Check out his Huffington Post piece, “The Founders’ Immigration Policy,” where he writes: “To truly reform immigration, we should look back to the nation’s first immigration and naturalization laws, which are a far cry from restrictive laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56.”