As New Administration Seeks to Tighten Borders, A History of Immigration in the U.S.

By Chris Adams

The latest controversies over immigration policy have plenty of company in U.S. history books.

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, reminded Paul Miller fellows of that as he detailed the history of immigration in the U.S. – as well as the myths he says too often drive the discussion.

Cato is a libertarian think tank that generally advocates for more-open borders. Nowrasteh said “the market does a much better job of determining the numbers” of people who should be admitted to the United States than does Congress or the president.

But controlling those numbers is what Congress and the president have long tried to do, starting with the Naturalization Act of 1790. Nowrasteh explained the various laws over the years that liberalized immigration as well as those that restricted it.

He also detailed the latest efforts by President Donald Trump, including his January 2017 executive orders to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries as well as to begin construction of a wall on the Mexican border.

Nowrasteh went over the legal underpinnings for those orders, and he discussed the rationale for them. That rationale, he said, is often based on faulty information.

On fears of terrorism and other crimes from immigrants, Nowrasteh said, “The fear is entirely, entirely overblown.”

Of the seven Muslim-majority countries singled out in Trump’s executive order, for example, “There have been zero people killed in terror attacks on U.S. soil committed by nationals from these countries,” he said.

Nowrasteh pointed fellows to several resources, including a recent paper of his, “Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis,” that showed the relative risks of being harmed by immigrants who entered the U.S. under various visa programs.

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