Lawrence Fuchs, a retired Brandeis scholar of American ethnicity, has died. He was from a time when it was commonplace for liberals to value the unum as well as the plures. He reveled in ethnic diversity but rejected group rights. He was a real liberal (an early board member of the Ford Foundation-created MALDEF, for instance), but wrote approvingly of nisei students in Hawaii in the 1920s talking about “our Pilgrim forefathers” and reciting the Gettysburg Address by heart. He told me once he would like the oath of citizenship for new citizens to echo a bar mitzvah speech by starting “Today, I am an American.”
While he certainly didn’t consider himself an immigration restrictionist, if he were writing today the loathsome SPLC would certainly label him a hater barely a step away from fascism. He was executive director of the Hesburgh Commission, whose 1981 report noted that the panel:
“does not believe that the U.S. should begin the process of legalization until new enforcement measures have been instituted to make it clear that the U.S. is determined to curtail new flows of undocumented illegal aliens.”
Fifteen years later he was vice chairman of the Jordan Commission, which wrote:
“The credibility of immigration policy can be measured by a simple yardstick: people who should get in, do get in; people who should not get in are kept out; and people who are judged deportable are required to leave.”
And Fuchs recommended in the introduction to the 1995 edition of The American Kaleidescope that:
To strengthen the civic culture, the United States should commit more resources and intelligent attention to deterring illegal immigration.