Our Illegal Founders

01 Jan 2013

This Essay briefly mines America’s history to argue that the law setting forth where our national borders are and how strictly we patrol them has always been subject to the vagaries of politics, economics, and perception. Illegal (im)migration has long been part of our migration history, engaged in not just by Latin American border crossers, but also by prominent colonists, giving the lie to the claim that upholding border laws should always be sacrosanct. In many school districts today, the usual summary of American history from our childhood civics classes no longer bypasses the uncomfortable truths of conquest and westward expansion by Anglo-Protestant settlers to the detriment of Native Americans and Mexicans. However, not often is this story described as a parable of illegal immigration.