There are two examples of immigration terminology that we must challenge: “We are a nation of immigrants” and the all-encompassing word “immigrants.”

Contrary to popular mythology, we are not “a nation of immigrants.” Eighty-seven percent of the people in this country were born here, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data; 13 percent are aliens or, if you prefer, “foreign-born,” although by law, the official term is “alien.”

Why is this important? It is important — critically important — because this drumbeat “We are a nation of immigrants” implies, and adds to the mythology that, without immigration, our nation is infertile and unfruitful. It is what advocates for open borders and unfettered migration — legal and illegal — want to project. Its purpose is to stifle opposite views, and any discussion of limiting migration into this country, in any way.

Has this been a planned program by advocates for unlimited migration? It is hard to find specific examples of this, but there is a website,, that is “dedicated to making a case for … a world where there is a strong presumption in favor of allowing people to migrate.”

We were not a “nation of immigrants,” even at our founding. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 48 of them, or 86 percent, were native born, about the same ratio of native- to foreign-born as in today’s population.

Instead, we should say: “We are a nation founded by immigrants — with apologies to Native Americans — built by immigrants and their progeny, and continue to be enhanced by those legal, productive immigrants who contribute to our nation.”

Interestingly, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has recently dropped “nation of immigrants” in its new mission statement, by Director L. Francis Cissna, which says its role is to administer “the nation’s lawful immigration system.”

The other problem is the terminology used to refer to the alien-migrant population. For several decades, the official and accepted term for “illegal aliens” was — “illegal aliens.” But because many saw “alien” as offensive, the term “illegal immigrant” was pushed forth. This is a total misnomer. The traditional, legal definition of “immigrant” is someone who comes here legally for the purpose of staying here permanently — that is to say, a “green card” holder. The Internal Revenue Service makes that distinction, defining “immigrant” as “an alien who has been granted the right by USCIS to reside permanently in the United States”: i.e., a green card alien.

Of course, the terminology used in the popular press has morphed to “undocumented immigrant,” another mischaracterization. It became even more bizarre with a reference to illegal aliens as “undocumented citizens.”

Equally troubling, along with the deception practiced by advocates and the press, is the knowledge that many no longer make the distinction between legal and illegal, and do not even see the difference. If legal and illegal aliens mingle in society, and no distinction is made as to their legal status, then, over time, no difference is perceived, and all are just “immigrants,” as we see today, unfortunately.

What we are witnessing is a result of increased migration into the country, starting with the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. With that legislation, our population zoomed from 179 million in 1960 to 308 million in 2010, and the foreign-born population from 5.4 percent to 12.9 percent, close to the historical high of 14.8 percent.

What’s more, a 2015 Pew Research Center study estimates that 88 percent of our population growth will be from migrants and the children they have, with the U.S. population predicted to reach 441 million by 2065, an increase of 103 million people.

There has also been a concurrent movement to the cities with the urban population as a percentage of total population, increasing from 70 percent in 1960 to 81 percent by 2010.

These demographic shifts have given us what appears to be an intractable legal-illegal divide in this country, with the proliferation of sanctuary cities the most notable example. The Center for Immigration Studies, a research institute whose findings conclude that immigration reductions are needed, defines “sanctuary cities” as “cities, counties and states (that) have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).” Municipal officials knowingly break federal law by preventing enforcement of immigration laws, in total disregard of the oaths they have taken to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the land.

Unless we make the rule of law paramount, and adhere to constitutional principles, the future of this republic and the notion of an “e pluribus unum” nation are in doubt.

Bob Casimiro of Bridgton is executive director of Mainers for Responsible Immigration.

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