Yearning to Breathe Free

Yearning to Breathe Free

Geoffrey Botkin
August 8, 2017

When White House stalwart Stephen Miller[1] summarized the “unfettered, uncontrolled” policies of immigration favored by the White House press corps, he put his finger squarely on the self-righteous stupidity of political correctness.  Miller then exposed the media’s seemingly willful ignorance of economics, national security, and American history.  “The people who have been hurt the most by the policy you’re advocating,” Miller said to a reporter, “are immigrant workers and minority workers.”

The Trump administration is addressing broken aspects of America’s current immigration system; aspects which harm everyone in the US who yearns to breathe the atmosphere of freedom.  If nothing else, Miller’s lessons to the press have taught them to do some historical research before engaging Stephen Miller on the meaning of America.  The Left’s default wail on immigration reform, “But that’s not who we are!” is as fictional as it is suicidal.

America’s Sovereign Security

From the beginning, free America was known as a place worth developing and defending.  That is precisely why most immigrants left everything to risk the migration.   But over four centuries, American leaders learned the hard way that not all arrivals were yearning to breathe free.  In the 1600s, our colonies had to protect[2] local communities from lawless freebooters who wanted to take advantage of peaceful American towns that needed no police force.  The British government used the opportunities of colonization to rid itself of thousands of undesirables, including "social misfits, convicts, and men who were driven by desperation to take a chance in the wilds of America."[3]  Later, foreign ideologues exploited America's immigration channels to subvert American freedom politically. Enemy aliens have abused American generosity by entering and leaving, gaining permanent residence, and even naturalizing as means to treasonous ideological ends, whether it was helping Imperial Japan during World War II, the Soviet Union during the Cold War, or totalitarian Islam in the days of the new Caliph.

Against these risks stood a moral safeguard which for 380 years existed as America’s merit-based immigration system.  Colonial laws rejected foreigners who were likely to become a “public charge,” a moral threat, or a security threat.  In the real world, people have reasons for migration, and sovereign nations have a moral obligation to determine if those reasons involve business, pleasure, subversion, sabotage, criminal enterprise, genocide, or something else. 

American authorities both national and local used moral discrimination to determine the intentions of migrants, even if they came from the familiar European neighborhoods of close relatives.  Early American immigration laws were character-based, to be applied without favoritism.  Specific statutes made it unlawful to accept seditious immigrants, “vagabonds,” “gaolbirds,” “wastrels,” and “alien enemies.”  The statutes were not concerned with nationality, “race,” or inherited religious custom.  The purpose was to identify the character that derives from personal belief, and then act in the interests of the nation.  “The right to exclude and deport[4] noncitizens has been vigorously exercised in this nation,” writes Historian Dr. James Edwards.  “Indeed, such a right is inherent to the idea of a sovereign nation.”[5]

The Bosom of America

Harvard’s Samuel Huntington confirms that America has always defined herself ideologically when it came to immigration policy.   Scrutiny did not focus on race, color, geography, nationality or gender,[6] but on personal ideology.[7]  “This scrutiny,” writes Huntington, centered on an alien’s character.”[8] 

This is the American record.  The exercising of moral discrimination in migration policy was so inherently American that none of the founders felt the need to defend the idea theoretically or morally in writing.  Professor Thomas West reminds us, “Such a right was obvious to all as an inference from the general principles they all shared.”  All sovereign nations can and must exclude immigrants who would compromise national security.[9]

Even Jeffersonians wrote about their skepticism toward immigrants “who lacked Republican character and who held political views contrary to American ordered liberty.”  Madison made residency a requirement prior to naturalization so that character could be observed.  Jefferson warned that immigrants lacking republican virtue would “bring with them the principles of the governments they leave… Or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness.”[10]

In 1798, the Alien Enemies Act gave the president broad discretionary authority to apprehend and deport aliens who might subvert the nation, based on personal ideology.  George Washington[11] demanded “decency and propriety of conduct” in any stranger who wanted access to “the bosom of America.” 

The US Constitution takes pains to require propriety in immigration law (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1) and leaves the definition of a proper immigrant to the states.  Restrictive immigration laws have been consistently developed as necessary throughout the centuries.  By 1903 the laws provided for exclusion and deportation[12] of “alien anarchists” -- those foreigners who believe in or “advocate the overthrow by force of violence the government of the United States…or all forms of law,[13] or the assassination of public officials.[14]

American immigration policy was historically guided by reality until 1987, when a federal court in California ruled in 1987 that Palestinian terrorist group members residing in the United States could not be deported, instead extending First Amendment protection to their speech.[15]  Then followed Barney Frank’s effort to gut the Immigration Act in 1990.  And then came the Left’s attempt to make the concept of personal character an alien concept.  Finally, we endured the media’s effort to depict America as a fantasy island open to anyone for legal plunder and the complete moral relativism of multiculturalism.

Immigration Policy is a Life and Death Issue

For the American media, the Statue of Liberty appears to be the Mythical Mother of the welfare state and any foreigner who demands his entitlement to freedom from responsibility, at America’s expense. 

For her French designers, Lady Liberty was merely a memorial to American independence, won in a war that turned out better for America than the French Revolution did for the French.  In her right hand she holds torch that is to signify that America knows what she is doing in respect to freedom, and that the world should be enlightened by that light.  In her left hand, she holds a military emblem memorializing a war date in July, 1776. 

The next month, August, 1776, should be remembered by Americans as an immigration date.  A wave of Germans landed unexpectedly on the shores of the colonies.  But these hadn’t sailed “yearning to breathe free” in our new nation.  These Hessians had come to kill us, to destroy our free society, and plunder our farms.  They had been hired by King George III as mercenary assassins. They were assigned a mission to terrorize us and replace the new government of the United States.  Their collective dream was a trip home with shiploads of war booty.  There were 30,000 of them, and they did not stop for a peaceful interview with immigration officials.

So how did we respond?  We recognized that we were in a condition of war, and we Americans proceeded to kill as many Germans as we could with personally-owned military-grade firearms. 

Before the Hessians gave up their dream, we had to put down and bury an estimated 12,000 of these enemy aliens.  Many thousands surrendered.  Three thousand of the survivors asked if they could stay and become treasured assets of the new nation, like the older German families they met and observed in America.  To the peaceful and penitent ones, America said “Yes,” and then, “Welcome.” 

In the next century America vetted and then welcomed an estimated 40 million peace-loving Europeans who came because they knew America was prepared to discriminate against evil, and defend all her citizens intact.  Many of America’s most valuable incoming migrants were British and German – the children and grandchildren of our earlier antagonists.  But America did not relax her realistic, merit-based approach to strangers simply because hostilities were quiet.

National Security Requires Continual Vetting of Character

In 1857 Adolphus Busch arrived from the belligerent Hessian region of Germany, but not with weapons and a bad attitude.  He brought a family beer recipe and a simple dream to sell good beer to other German immigrants who were settling in a nation they wanted to be part of.  Busch married Lilly Anheuser and raised 13 English-speaking children to further develop a growing American brewery business.  Adolphus and Lilly were a famous couple,[16] but not even Lilly could visit Germany without going through extreme vetting on her return to US ports of entry.[17] 

How did that work during the war with Kaiser Bill? American immigration restrictions and vetting procedures were not centered on nationality, or spelling of surnames, but ideology.[18]  There was no “German ban.”  But there certainly was a ban on the ideologies which drive sabotage, subversion, genocide, and threaten national security.  Lilly Busch would have been physically searched, and then ideologically searched.  She would have been asked about ideological loyalty to find out if she was first and last an American, or whether Germany was her creedal fatherland.

In 1942, America was again at war with the German state, which had become an ideological menace with a powerful military.  Any soldiers of the Third Reich trying to land on American beaches in rubber boats would not have been defined as “refugees,” and then showered with apartments and benefits and food stamps.  They would have been vetted.  If it was clear they were enemy aliens, they would have been tried and executed. 

This in fact happened when eight Nazis were caught trying to hide their rubber boat and bury explosives in the sand on a Long Island beach under the cover of thick fog.[19]  They eluded a Coast Guard patrolman,[20]  but the FBI later verified that the Germans were Nazi saboteurs armed with a dream inspired by Adolph Hitler: death to America

How did we learn about this invalid dream?  By looking at the character of the saboteurs. Two of the Nazis confessed their demerit. They explained their mission to attack America’s civil infrastructure and make war on American civilians, and how they were dropped off by Nazi U-boats with their civilian costumes, maps and weapons.  All eight were tried in a military court and sentenced to death.  The two who confessed were imprisoned; the six others were sent promptly to The Chair and buried near the Anacostia River.

Today the US is at peace with Germany.  And yet the US government still requires incoming Germans to make declarations about national socialist ideology.[21]  This ideological question is on America’s I-94w Visa waiver form because America still holds a moral position on Nazism: we do not want it inside our borders.  Is that discrimination?  Of course it is. 

Who We Really Are

America has always been a dependable benefactor of the newcomer, but not stupidly and not blindly.  America grew up in the real world of wars, intrigue, and opportunistic villains.  Tens of millions of immigrants came for the great opportunity offered by freedom: the freedom to be responsible.  Our immigration policies supported this opportunity by protecting the nation through merit-based statutes.  Serious contributors to freedom were given the chance to inhale freedom fully, and find sanctuary here.  What were they getting away from? 

Ironically, it was the very same suicidal anarchy, lawless utopianism and self-righteous stupidity that Stephen Miller encounters today in the press room of the American White House.


[1] Stephen Miller is President Trump's senior advisor for policy. Miller answered questions about new immigration policy measures in the White House press room August 2, 2017.

[2] See James R. Edwards, Jr. "Public Charge Doctrine: A Fundamental Principle of American Immigration Policy," Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder, May 2001.

[3] Marilyn C. Baseler, "Asylum for Mankind:" America, 1607-1800 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998), p. 71.

[4] One 1643 Virginia law provided for the deportation Catholic clerics.  Priests arriving on Virginia docks could stay for four days and catch their breath, but within five days of arrival they had to be long gone.

[5] James R. Edwards, Jr., Keeping Extremists Out, Center for Immigration Studies, September 1, 2005,

[6] One exclusion law in 1875 denied entrance to Chinese women, but only those who were coming as prostitutes for “shameful purposes.” Another exclusionary law in 1891 barred admittance to those with contagious disease or who practiced an ideology of polygamy.

[7] England learned early that convicted felons could not be dumped on the American colonies. Sometimes entire ships were turned back to England.

[8] Samuel Huntington, Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), p. 38.

[9] Thomas G. West, Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), p. 152.

[10] James R. Edwards Jr, Keeping Extremists Out: The History of Ideological Exclusion and the Need for Its Revival,  September 2005,

[11] George Washington, 1783, letter to Joshua Holmes. “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights & previleges, if by decency & propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”

[12] The U.S. Government still deports undesirable, criminal or enemy aliens.  The US deported 235,413 Immigrants in 2015 to 223 different nations. Bill Clinton, with much fewer assets in the field, deported 12.3 million immigrants during his presidency, almost four times the number of the Obama Administration. There are 929,684 illegal aliens present in this country who have been ordered deported but remain at large in our communities.

[13] By 1952, writes Edwards, federal immigration laws listed 33 categories of excludable aliens (nine of them new). Regarding an alien's ideology, three grounds related to security and politics. Section 212(a)(27) kept out aliens who would participate in activities that would be prejudicial to the public interest or public safety. Section 212(a)(28) excluded aliens who belong to subversive organizations or teach or advocate prohibited views. Section 212(a)(29) barred aliens deemed likely to engage in subversive activities once here. This noncontroversial subsection kept out aliens expected to engage in espionage, sabotage, public disorder, or activity that risks national security or use of force or violence to overthrow the U.S. government.

[14] Edwards, p. 5

[15] Edwards, p. 7

[16] More than 100,000 American mourners attended the funeral of Adolphus Busch in St. Louis.

[17] German agents were in fact committing acts of sabotage near US ports during the war.

[18] Legislation was based on ideological, political, and radical beliefs and activities. See Bernadette Maguire, Immigration: Public Legislation and Private Bills (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1997), pp. 139-140.  Maguire writes that World War I led to. . . legislation prohibiting the entry of anarchists, subversives and others dangerous to national security [being] recodified. Further attention was also given to prohibiting the entry of those engaged in sabotage, or those engaged in writing, publishing, and otherwise advocating proscribed activities. Also excluded were aliens who were members of associations involved in the circulation of such material.

About the Author

Geoffrey Botkin is a cultural analyst, political consultant, veteran filmmaker, husband, and father. He currently serves as a senior consultant to the Western Conservatory of the Arts & Sciences.


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