Immigration in America Part I: The Beginning

No other country in the world has welcomed more immigrants than the United States. Immigrants created the great "melting pot" that is America. However, the notion of "melting" or assimilating into American society is no longer taught, adding to the problems of an overburdened and broken immigration system. Presidential candidates on both sides claim to have the answer. But to actually find a solution, we have to understand how we got here and what's been tried in the past. This four-part series covers the remarkable history of immigration in America and why the modern system desperately needs of reform.

Immigration in America Part I: The Beginning

There is a common refrain in the debate about immigration: We are a nation of immigrants. While that is true, there is a word nearly always left out of that refrain: legal. We have always been a nation of laws and a nation of legal immigrants.

The Pilgrims were the first immigrants able to create a permanent home here. Starting around 1620, tens of thousands of British, German and Dutch, but mostly British Puritans, came to North America to escape religious persecution, find opportunities or simply experience an adventure. Then there were the forced immigrants. Hundreds of thousands of Africans who were mercilessly captured in their own lands and put on ships bound for America to be sold into slavery.

As the United States Constitution took hold, American freedom provided the opportunity for American citizens to rise above their station in life. Word began to spread around the globe. The downtrodden throughout Europe and Asia looked to America for hope and opportunity, a situation that caused both enormous potential and inherent problems. Thomas Jefferson expressed concerns about the "great importations of foreigners" saying, "In proportion to their number, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mess."

Fortunately, the first wave of immigrants desperately wanted to leave behind the biases of European governments and enjoy the fruits of what our Founders had created.

By the 1850s, as America's population topped 20 million and the immigrants kept coming, especially the Irish, escaping from the potato famine. In the late 1800s, massive steamships provided much faster cross Atlantic transportation for those who wanted a taste of the American dream. As mills and factories sprung across the land, cities grew up around them. In turn, these cities beckoned to workers by the millions from the American countryside and from overseas, to fuel the burgeoning industrialization. Between 1860 and 1910, the urban population grew from 6 million to over 44 million.

Ellis Island in New York was set up to process the mass of humanity arriving on our shores from the Atlantic, and the Angel Island in San Francisco to deal with those coming across the Pacific. It was a wave of immigrants that believed in the promise of America and had loved and longed for from afar --- and they thanked God when they arrived. For those immigrants, assimilation wasn't just a good idea, it was the only idea.

It was certainly not easy for these newcomers. With so many arriving from so many diverse locations around the world, taking jobs, housing and space in this land, and, yes, some resentment did arise. But no nation on earth has ever experienced, let alone survived so great an influx of humanity in such a short period of time, but the United States of America didn't just survive it. It would thrive.

Listen to the Full Series on Immigration

Part I: The Beginning

Part II: The 20th Century

Part III: Immigration Reform

Part IV: The Immigration Fight Today

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!