Immigration and National Identity

Honorable Gregory J. Donat,  Senior Consultant, Grays Peak Strategies

Liberty Fund was founded in 1960 by Pierre F. Goodrich, an Indianapolis lawyer and businessman, to the end that some hopeful contribution may be made to the preservation, restoration, and development of individual liberty through investigation, research, and educational activity.

Earlier in June, I was fortunate to attend a Liberty Fund Colloquium in Santa Fe, New Mexico entitled, “Immigration and National Identity”. The purpose of such Liberty Fund programs is bringing together a small group of people from academia and professional fields to conduct a Socratic roundtable discussion exploring human liberties. The Liberty Fund has held over 3,000 conferences using this format. These conferences are by invitation only, and have an interdisciplinary focus. The purpose is neither to convey a particular doctrine nor to reach any consensus. Rather, it is to provide a forum for a dialogue among active minds in pondering the ideas that have shaped civilization in general, and free society in particular.

The colloquium in Santa Fe considered the historical, economic, and cultural impact of both legal and illegal immigration. It was from the viewpoint of the country receiving immigrants, the country sending the immigrants, and the immigrants themselves.


The United States was created by immigrants settling the Atlantic coast and wave after wave of immigrants after that to the present day. One important attribute of American culture is the process of assimilation into the existing culture and the input into the evolution of our culture. The economic impact to the US has been significant in the short term and the long term. The influx of low skilled workers was a boom to the economy – and kept prices low to consumers and created increased growing of markets. The sending nations often suffered themselves due to loss of motivated workers and a “brain drain”. The immigrants themselves tend to excel particularly in subsequent generations. Our history was a series of recruiting low skilled workers in good times and limiting immigration in hard times. The physical expansion of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific as well as the economic growth to the Super Power status we hold today was created in large part on the backs of immigrants.

The United States is now confronted by a wave of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. The beginning of the current wave began as migrant farm workers often admitted legally as braceros.


The readings for the Colloquium presented the wide range of alternatives and opinions from a global economic world without borders; to the other extreme of closing the borders and decreasing the number of illegal immigrants coming into the United States. The fundamental question is “what is our goal in regard to immigration?” Do we consider refugees and those seeking asylum together with those seeking freedom and opportunity; or do we only admit those with the skills and talents we need. One of our primary criteria now is “family reunification”, but that is also open to debate. No one is content with the current status, but there is no clear path to the future.

The Liberty Fund program and readings from leading experts lays out the truly difficult choices America and all nations must address in our rapidly changing world.