I wrote about the Miller-Acosta exchange for Politico today, and I’m with Miller:
One, making 21st policy in accord with late-19th century poetry makes no sense. We don’t ask, say, whether the naval appropriations bill is in keeping with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Building of the Ship” (“Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great!”)
Two, the cap on refugees in the Cotton-Perdue bill of 50,000 a year is in the ballpark of recent annual refugee numbers. We actually admitted fewer than this in the late-1970s and early-2000s, and the Statue of Liberty still stood.
Three, although Acosta angrily objected to giving a preference to English speakers, knowing English helps people make their way in this country and it’s reasonable to want immigrants to speak the language. As Miller pointed out, this is already a requirement for naturalization. And every comprehensive immigration reform bill always makes at least a symbolic nod to undocumented immigrants learning English before receiving amnesty.
(Acosta worries that preferring English speakers means all immigrants will come from Britain and Australia—apparently unaware that 125 million people speak English in India alone.)
Fourth, despite the myth, immigration policy has been highly contested throughout American history and levels have ebbed and flowed. Acosta seems to think that the current status quo is the norm, when the past 40 years have represented a historic wave of immigration. The usual pattern has been that we tap the brakes after such a spike, but advocates of high levels of immigration consider that un-American.