President Obama’s speech on Thursday announcing his executive order on illegal immigration was not watched by many people. Most of the usual television stations did not show it.
It’s just as well. It was misleading.
He referred to the fact that America has always been a land of immigrants (true) but it is misleading to imply that there is a correlation between the present situation and the past.
At the time of independence, the US was 98% Protestant, 1% Catholic, and 1% “Other,” including Jews. This means that, in the 175 years of the colonial period that came before independence, almost all immigrants came from the Protestant countries of NW Europe. They mostly came from the British Isles. This trend continued well into the nineteenth century. When Irish Catholic immigrants started arriving in significant numbers, they were not made very welcome. Washington DC even witnessed anti-Catholic riots.
Today, according to the Pew Research Center, 51.3% are Protestants and 23.9% Catholic. “Others” number 4.7% — this includes Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, three religions not represented in America’s early years. That’s quite a change in a little over 200 years. The United States is well on the way to becoming a minority Protestant country.
Religious tolerance developed in majority Protestant countries, the nations of NW Europe and especially England. This was due mainly to the proliferation of different denominations. “If there were only one religion in England,” wrote Voltaire in his Philosophical Letters, “we should have to fear despotism; if there were two, they would cut each other’s throats; but there were thirty and they live in peace and happiness.” (The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon Wood, 1991, page 14.) The number of denominations in both England and the American colonies was the same.
The fact that Protestantism is in decline in the United States will likely lead to greater religious intolerance. It has already contributed to significant changes. Not so long ago the Protestant Ten Commandments were taught in school (the Catholic Ten Commandments are different; really, check out a Catholic Bible!) The Bible was considered the Word of God. I grew up in England. I remember us being taught Bible stories as young children in school. I remember asking one of my teachers how you got three days and three nights into the period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I don’t remember exactly what he said but I do remember he attempted to answer the question. This would be unheard of today in a state run school.
Some of the religions entering the US today are known for their intolerance. Many immigrants come from countries violently divided between different religious factions. Those divisions are in danger of spilling over into the US.
“America by the Numbers” is a PBS series dedicated to highlighting the “major demographic change” that is taking place in the United States. It makes the changes seem so positive, yet geography and history show that different ethnic groups and religions will not get along once they are present in significant numbers.
The President’s speech was also misleading in another way.
When immigrants came to the US in previous centuries they were very much on their own. Churches and charities might have helped to a limited degree but immigrants had to find work fast to take care of themselves. Today, government helps. At the very least, free medical care is provided (no one can be turned away from ER) and free education for children, courtesy of tax-payers who are largely unaware.
Government even helps with accommodation, food, and transport.
This is not just in the United States. Other western countries do the same. Is it any wonder that hundreds of thousands, even millions, annually, are leaving their own countries and moving to western nations? Without the freebies, most would not attempt the journey.
Mr. Obama’s executive order will help to fundamentally change the country, a process that started 50 years ago with the 1965 immigration act. In time, it will also guarantee the Democrats five million more votes!