Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lincoln and Romney on Self-Deportation

Abraham Lincoln and Mitt Romney have more in common than their political party. 

Former Governor Mitt Romney
At Tampa, FL Republican delegates crafted their immigration plank that called  "for tough border enforcement and opposition to "any forms of amnesty" for illegal immigrants.  The proposed something they termed as "humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return voluntarily."  This policy of self-deportation was advocated by Romney during the nomination campaign last fall. 

This Republican position advocated by Romney is amazing similar to that favored by Abraham Lincoln.  One of President Lincoln's policies during his administration was the voluntary colonization of African American Freedmen.  There remains considerable debate about whether Lincoln's racial views  included that African Americans could not live in the same society as white Americans. Benjamin Butler stated that Lincoln in 1865 firmly denied that "racial harmony" would be possible in the United States. One view is that Lincoln adopted colonization for Freedmen in order to make his Emancipation Proclamation politically acceptable. This view has been challenged since President Lincoln's administration attempted to colonize freedmen in British Honduras after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863.

President Abraham Lincoln
Since the 1840s Lincoln had been an advocate of the American Colonization Society program of colonizing blacks in Liberia. In an October 16, 1854, speech at Peoria, Illinois (transcribed after the fact by Lincoln himself), Lincoln points out the immense difficulties of such a task are an obstacle to finding an easy way to quickly end slavery.





My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, -- to their own native land. But a moment's reflection would convince me, that whatever of high hope, (as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery, at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not.

Lincoln mentioned colonization favorably in his first Emancipation Proclamation, and continued to support efforts at colonization throughout his presidency.

Lincoln also created an agency to direct his colonization projects. In 1862 he appointed the Rev. James Mitchell of Indiana to oversee colonization, and established a Bureau of Emigration under his head at the Department of the Interior.

In a July 12, 1862 speech to senators and representatives from slave-holding border states, Lincoln said:

Room in South America for colonization, can be obtained cheaply, and in abundance; and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go.
 
According to the authors of Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement  "the concept of colonization never became a permanent fixture of US policy, and by the time Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the word “colonization” had disappeared from his public lexicon. As such, history remembers Lincoln as having abandoned his support of colonization when he signed the proclamation."  

Evidence from British Colonial and Foreign Office documents indicates that "Lincoln continued to pursue colonization for close to a year after emancipation" and that "Lincoln may have been attempting to revive this policy at the time of his assassination."

Lincoln’s conducted "highly secretive negotiations with the British government to find suitable lands for colonization in the West Indies." It also reveals that "the U.S. government worked with British agents and leaders in the free black community to recruit emigrants for the proposed colonies."  The scheme was "never very popular within Lincoln’s administration and even became a subject of subversion when the president’s subordinates began battling for control over a lucrative “colonization fund” established by Congress."
 
Will illegal immigrants happily register to return to their native countries and give up all they had gained through their hard work?  This is about as likely as the freed black men in 1865 flocking to colonies in Africa and South America.  It was flawed policy then and it's flawed policy today.  
 
 

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