Statement by Roy Beck, Founder & President of NumbersUSA

Nothing about this website should be construed as advocating hostile actions or feelings toward immigrants and other foreign-born people in this country.

Roy Beck
Roy Beck in 1996

From our beginning in 1996, we have urged our fellow Americans who are concerned about immigration to refrain from anger toward the foreign born who live among us. In a quarter-century of speeches across the country and in our videos (viewed by millions), I have repeatedly made the appeal that I make to you as you read this: If you get angry about the problems that we show are a result of immigration policies, don't get angry at immigrants but at the government officials who are responsible for the policies.

NumbersUSA is committed to a civil discussion toward an immigration policy that contributes to our civil society. Our approach on this subject rises out of a tone set in my book from the prestige publisher W.W. Norton & Co. (New York, 1996). Titled "The Case Against Immigration: The Moral, Economic, Social & Environmental Reasons for Reducing Immigration Back to Traditional Levels," the book included this admonition:

The chief difficulties that America faces because of current immigration are not triggered by who the immigrants are but by how many they are.

The task before the nation in setting a fair level of immigration is not about race or some vision of a homogeneous white America; it is about protecting and enhancing the United States' unique experiment in democracy for all Americans, including recent immigrants, regardless of their particular ethnicity.

This is a key reason we named ourselves NumbersUSA. It isn't as some of our critics have suggested that we think of immigrants as numbers rather than as people. No, it is because we don't want to focus on alleged deficiencies in the character and characteristics of these individual people but, rather, on how the sheer numbers of newcomers give rise to problems.

Members of our national community who are LEGAL immigrants have followed the rules in availing themselves of opportunities offered by our government. If the total number of legal immigrants has not been helpful to this country, the individual immigrants bear zero blame. Not only is it ethically wrong to engage in stereotyping of the foreign born, it is tactically short-sighted. There is much to suggest that most immigrants already among us would support reductions in immigration numbers for self-interested reasons. Virtually any reduction designed to help U.S.-born Americans would be even more beneficial to foreign-born Americans because they tend to live and work where each new wave of immigrants is most likely to compete. That is why so many immigrants and the spouses, parents and children of immigrants are NumbersUSA members who join in seeking reduced total annual admissions.

Illegal immigration is another matter. Those who have illegally crossed our borders or illegally overstayed their visitor visas indeed HAVE done something wrong and DO deserve some blame for the problems from illegal immigration. But that doesn't mean that they should be treated as intrinsically bad people, just as I believe we should respect the human dignity of any American who might be a lawbreaker. I would hope that Americans can treat illegal aliens with civility, and we urge our government to accord illegal aliens humane treatment as the rules of our immigration system are applied to them.

Unfortunately despite our long history of providing leadership in civility, we are routinely attacked with labels like "anti-immigrant" and worse by many of the advocates for higher immigration. I know this can be infuriating to those of you who feel so unjustly attacked by this reckless name-calling, often even in the mainstream media. But as unfair as these attacks on us are, we cannot use them as justification for responses that even inadvertently might encourage somebody else to show hostility toward the foreign-born.

Here are some more thoughts from my 1996 Norton book:

I encounter too many immigrants and children of immigrants in daily affairs where I live in northern Virginia to take those risks lightly. From five continents, members of immigrant families have passed through my home, especially in the persons of friends of my sons. They are among the physical therapy patients of my wife; they are participants in youth activities which I have led; they are friends at my church, which has received national recognition for leadership in creating local service to new immigrants; they are neighbors; they are business clerks and owners where I trade.

Thus, as is the case for millions of other Americans, I have a very personal stake in not wanting to provoke hostility or discrimination toward the foreign-born who already are living among us.

But our kindly feelings toward immigrants must no longer stifle public discussion about the effects of immigration numbers.

To talk about changing immigration numbers is to say nothing against the individual immigrants in this country. Rather, it is about deciding how many foreign citizens living in their own countries right now should be allowed to immigrate in the future.

None of this is to suggest that no immigrants are scoundrels or contribute to problems of immigration because of their bad personal behavior. It is not unfair, nor does it constitute immigrant bashing, to criticize the behavior of specific immigrants who violate our laws or otherwise behave in a manner unworthy of guests who have been invited into this country.

It IS immigrant bashing, however, to ascribe those bad characteristics to whole groups of people based on their ethnicity or foreign-born status. All of us should be careful of the language we use so as not to inadvertently appear to be making such negative generalizations.

This civility toward the foreign-born is not just my own approach but incorporated by our Board of Directors in the Statement Of Values it adopted years ago as a guide for everything our organization does. Especially appropriate to the discussion on this page is one of the six "values" that states: "Immigrant bashing, xenophobia, nativism and racism are unacceptable responses to federal immigration policy failures. Race and ethnicity should play no role in the debate and establishment of immigration policy."