Response to President Calderon
House Chamber, Washington, D.C. May 20, 2010. M. Speaker:
I rise to take strong exception to the speech of the President of Mexico while in this chamber today.
The Mexican government has made it very clear for many years that it holds American sovereignty in contempt and President Calderon’s behavior as a guest of the Congress confirms and underscores this attitude.
It is highly inappropriate for the President of Mexico to lecture Americans on American immigration policy, just as it would be for Americans to lecture Mexico on its laws.
It is obvious that President Calderon does not understand the nature of America or the purpose of our immigration law.
Unlike Mexico’s immigration law — which is brutally exclusionary — the purpose of America’s law is not to keep people out. It is to assure that as people come to the United States, they do so with the intention of becoming Americans and of raising their children as Americans.
Unlike Mexico, our nation embraces immigration and what makes that possible is assimilation.
A century ago President Teddy Roosevelt put it this way. He said:
“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”
That is how we have built one great nation from the people of all the nations of the world.
The largest group of immigrants now comes from Mexico. A recent RAND study discovered that during most of the 20th Century, while our immigration laws were actually enforced, assimilation worked and made possible the swift attainment of the American dream for millions of immigrants seeking to escape conditions in Mexico.
That is the broader meaning of our nation’s motto, “E Pluribus Unum” – from many people, one people, the American people.
But there is now an element in our political structure that seeks to undermine that concept of “E Pluribus Unum.” It seeks to hyphenate Americans, to develop linguistic divisions, to assign rights and preferences based on race and ethnicity, and to elevate devotion to foreign ideologies and traditions, while at the same time denigrating American culture, American values and American founding principles.
In order to do so, they know that they have to stop the process of assimilation. In order to do that, they must undermine our immigration laws.
It is an outrage that a foreign head of state would appear in this chamber and actively seek to do so. And it is a disgrace that he would be cheered on from the left wing of the White House and by many Democrats in this Congress.
Arizona has not adopted a new immigration law. All it has done is to enforce existing law that President Obama refuses to enforce. It is hardly a radical policy to suggest that if an officer on a routine traffic stop encounters a driver with no driver’s license, no passport, and who doesn’t speak English, that maybe that individual might be here illegally.
And to those who say we must reform our immigration laws – I reply that we don’t need to reform them – we need to enforce them. Just as every other government does. Just as Mexico does.
Above all, this is a debate of, by and for the American people. If President Calderon wishes to participate in that debate, I invite him to obey our immigration laws, apply for citizenship, do what 600,000 LEGAL immigrants to our nation are doing right now, learn our history and our customs, and become an American. And then he will have every right to participate in that debate.
Until then, I would politely invite him to have the courtesy while a guest of this Congress to abide by the fundamental rules of diplomacy between civilized nations not to meddle in each other’s domestic debates.