Not a Nation of Immigrants.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a historian, activist, and author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Beacon Press, 2015). This article is adapted from the introduction of her latest book, Not A Nation of Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2021).
On George Washington’s birthday, 2018, the Donald Trump administration’s director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, changed the agency’s official mission statement, dropping the language of “a nation of immigrants” to describe the United States. The previous mission statement had said the agency “secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”1 The revised mission statement reads: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”2
The Trump administration’s official negation of the United States as a nation of immigrants was unlikely to change the liberal rhetoric. During Joe Biden’s 2020 bid for the presidency, the campaign issued a statement on his immigration plan, titled “The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants,” asserting that “unless your ancestors were native to these shores, or forcibly enslaved and brought here as part of our original sin as a nation, most Americans can trace their family history back to a choice—a choice to leave behind everything that was familiar in search of new opportunities and a new life.”3 Unlike the previous “nation of immigrants” statement, the Biden campaign did acknowledge prior and continuing Native presence, as well as specifying that enslaved Africans were not immigrants. However, the new rhetoric continues to mask the settler-colonial violence that established and maintained the United States and turns immigrants into settlers.
Read the important essay. From Monthly Review.