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2012 Phi Alpha Theta

THE FALL OF ANCIENT ROME AND MODERN U.S. IMMIGRATION: HISTORICAL M O D E L O R PO L I T I C A L FO O T B A L L ?


FRANK ARGOTE-FREYRE AND CHRISTOPHER M. BELLITTO
On 20 July 2006, a Republican from Texas, Ted Poe, at the time a freshman representative running for reelection, took the oor of the US House of Representatives to deliver a cautionary history lesson related to the current immigration debate in the United States: Let me take you back 1,642 years, Mr. Speaker, and lets talk about a little bit of history. Caesar Valens controlled the Roman Empire. . . . And while he is Caesar, the barbarian nation of the Goths to his northeast started coming toward the Roman Empire. . . . They were led by a person that was supposedly a friend of Rome, his name was Fritigern, King of the Goths, and he asked permission to come into Rome with some [of] the Goths. Normally the Roman Government would not allow this, to have a state within a state; but, you see, Valens needed more people to be in his army and he needed more workers in the Empire of Rome. So he granted permission for some of the Goths to come in legally. But when the crossing started, the Roman

Frank Argote-Freyre is an assistant professor of Latin American history at Kean University. Argote-Freyre received his PhD from Rutgers University in 2004. His rst book, Fulgencio Batista: From Revolutionary to Strongman, was published in 2006. His second book, A Brief History of the Caribbean, coauthored with Danilo Figueredo, was published in 2008. He was assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Cuba (2003). Christopher M. Bellitto is chair and associate professor of ancient and medieval history at Kean University. Bellitto received his PhD from Fordham University in 1997. He is the author of nine books, including 101 Questions and Answers on Popes and the Papacy (Paulist Press, 2008), and the co-editor of six collections of essays, most recently Reassessing Reform: A Historical Investigation into Church Renewal (Catholic University of America Press, 2012). His scholarly articles have appeared in the Catholic Historical Review, Church History, Cristianesimo nella storia, Revue dhistoire ecclsiastique, Cistercian Studies Quarterly, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching, and other journals.

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Government didnt have enough border guards to control entry, and so massive waves of Goths came into the Roman Empire. What started out as a controlled entry mushroomed into a massive inux. Several hundreds of thousands came across [to] the Roman Empire. But the Goths did not take the oath to support the emperor. They did not assimilate. They did not become Roman. And a few years later, this state within a state revolted and internal war started. . . . History speaks for itself, Mr. Speaker. Failure to control illegal entry into a country causes some problems, and we are not talking about legal entry. We are talking about illegal entry. And it encourages a state within a state. And when people come illegally to a nation and refuse to take allegiance to that country, start sending money to another nation and they dont even learn the language, is America asking for trouble? Is America becoming just another Rome? Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons for the fall of Rome, but one of those reasons is simply the failure to control who came into their nation. I think the analogy is obvious.1 Is it? Congressman Poe is certainly not the rst to make the rhetorical link between the fall of Rome and the current position of the United States. Scholars, pundits and politicians across the ideological spectrum use the Roman Empire as villain or hero to indict or praise the American position in the global community today. They assure us that the United States and its people could gain important lessons from studying the fall of Rome. Some look at US military and economic power or cultural inuence as a sure sign that modern America merits comparison with imperial Rome, a comparison that has long been a part of American political discourse. Likewise, there are efforts to predict the decline, imminent or longterm, of the United States by looking to the ancient past. Immigration is often a key component in any debate about the future fall of the United States. In the following we examine if this comparison is a useful, substantive, and accurate

1. Congressional Record Online via GPO Access (wais.access.gpo.gov), 20 July 2006. For a detailed presentation and multivalent analysis of this event in Roman history in context, see Noel Lenski, Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D., Berkeley, CA: U. of California P., 2002; Michael Kulikowski, Romes Gothic Wars: From the Third Century to Alaric, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007, 12343; and, in a popular style, Alessandro Barbero, The Day of the Barbarians: The Battle That Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire, trans. John Cullen, New York: Walker and Company, 2007.

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application of the past to the present, especially keeping in mind its potential utility for the classroom. Our goal is not, however, to debate why Rome fell and if America might follow. Rather, we wish to take a case-study approach and focus on one aspect of the story, that of immigration and borders, to ask whether the linkage between the migrations of so-called barbarians in the third to fth centuries CE can properly be applied to what is being called the immigration crisis in the United States today.2 We entertain no Nostradamus-like insights into the future of the United States, but instead seek to explore the contemporary use of the terms language, borders, and citizenship within the context of ancient Rome and to explore how these terms have been linked to modern America. This essay is also about the use and abuse of history by those involved in current debates. Those claiming that history is on their side often seek to win todays political debates, so we seek to review just how the Rome comparison has been utilized in the polarizing struggle over immigration. A bit of background may be in order in justifying our self-condence in taking on such a formidable task. We conceived of this article as history professors in a diverse campus setting (at Kean University, a public institution) located in a multi-ethnic region (northern New Jersey, just a short train ride from New York City). One of us teaches ancient and medieval history, while the other teaches Latin-American history and works as an activist on immigrant issues in the area where we both live. This article germinated in a series of conversations we had with each other, beginning with the Latin Americanist wondering aloud if Romans talked about the barbarians (itself a loaded word) as immigrants and whether all this talk about barbarian hordes was being used accurately in current discussions concerning immigration. We have jointly presented this discussion in several settings already: our own classes in ancient and Latin American history, a continuing-education program for senior citizens in a nearby community college, and at a conference on immigration sponsored by our universitys Human Rights Institute that drew a spirited response, particularly from the middle- and highschool students and teachers who participated.3

2. For another version of this exercise, though less focused on the applicability to political discourse and the classroom, see Norman Etherington, Barbarians Ancient and Modern, American Historical Review 116, 2011, 3157. Etherington examines how ancient Rome was related to pre-colonial southern Africa in the nineteenth century. 3. We are grateful to many colleagues and students for feedback in these settings and to The Historians anonymous reviewers for constructive comments. Particularly good advice on an earlier version of this article was offered by Dennis R. Hidalgo of Virginia Tech.

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*** Immigration is a historical process central to the human experience. Its use in a comparative context across culture and time enriches coursework on Roman, Latin-American, and US history, but the entire immigration issue is also fertile ground for political extremes. The comparison between ancient Rome in its nal years and the present-day United States is a subject of frequent debate on pro- and anti-immigrant websites alike.4 The focus of the negative attention is most often on the inux of immigrants across the southern US border with Mexico. From the opposite perspective, some favor the recolonization (reconquista) of the southwest United States and the establishment of an indigenous homeland to avenge the loss of those lands taken in the US-Mexican War of 18461848. Demographic takeover, rather than warfare, is their plan of attack. There are nuances to interpretations, of course, but it is fair to say that the immigration linkage between Rome and the United States falls broadly into two camps. For some, Rome and America are linked by decadence and immorality, secularism and materialism, greed and bribery, conspiracy and arrogancein sum, by the hubris that caused Greco-Roman gods to bring down individuals and communities that had grown too big for their togas. From this stance, the current debate over immigration is another barometer of the decline of US institutions and culture, often paired with lamentations about the dangers of multiculturalism.5 For those in another camp, America remains, like Rome, a shining city on a hill destined to last a mythic thousand years in order to spread its culture, wealth,

4. In addition to a broad range of anti-immigration articles and posts blaming immigrants for many of the nations problems, Vdare.com has a number of specic entries on the US-Rome comparison. For some examples see Steve Smith, U.S. Chamber Urging Country on Romes Path to Disaster, available at: http://www.vdare.com/articles/us-chamber-urging-country-onromes-path-to-disaster, accessed 24 January 2012; Sam Francis, New World America Or Fall of Rome Revisited, available at: http://www.vdare.com/articles/new-world-america-or-fall-ofrome-revisited, accessed 24 January 2012; and Patrick J. Buchanan, Will America Survive to 2050?, available at: http://www.vdare.com/articles/will-america-survive-to-2050, accessed 24 January 2012. While Smith, Samuels, and Buchanan are particularly hostile to immigration, others take a broader approach to the comparison between a declining Rome and the modern United States; for an analysis of Arizona legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration, see for example http://mediumhistorica.com/2010/05/06/arizona-senate-bill-1070-unlawfulimmigration-and-the-fall-of-rome/, accessed 24 January 2012. The same may be said of http://americaandthefalloftheromanempire.blogspot.com/, accessed on 24 January 2012, a blog dedicated to the subject of American decline. 5. Samuel Huntington was one of the strongest proponents of this argument, as in The Hispanic Challenge, Foreign Policy MarchApril 2004, 3045. Huntington followed this up with a monograph, Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to Americas National Identity, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.

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power, and dominance to those without access and opportunity to American resources, expertise, entrepreneurship, and grandeur. What is the use of power and prestige if it cannot be shared with the rest of the world, whether other countries like it or not? At the same time, some of Americas critics at home and abroad nd the very idea of empire distasteful and outdated.6 This essay is not the place for a denitive pronouncement on the classic and current theories of the fall of the Roman Empire. Any number of anthologies containing selections of Roman primary sources and modern historiographical treatments already exist.7 Truth be told, there was no one particular reason why Rome fell. Some scholars see an awful mistake in allowing the military to incorporate locals into the frontier garrisons, others blame lead in the Roman pipes or climate changes, while bread and circuses are paraded for the Rome rotted within decadence argument. The rotting Rome paradigm, whether because of circuses or excess in accommodating outsiders, is specically grasped by those who argue that the United States is becoming a collage of ethnic enclaves. Today, some charge, it is primarily Hispanic-Latino immigrants who are unwilling to assimilate to American culture. For this discussion an example might be Cubandominated Miami or the Mexican-inuenced southwest. These populations are forming a state within a state, to use Congressman Poes metaphor, and threatening the unity of the United States. Yet the use of the word state is misleading in the ancient context, where Romans signed treaties not with discrete countries but with tribes or peoples (foederati). Before Early Modernity, the concept of a UN-style state with a ag and clear borders is an anachronism. Perhaps the best and most scholarly presentation of this argument belongs to Samuel Huntington, who wrote: Continuation of this large immigration (without improved assimilation) could divide the United States into a country of two languages and two cultures.8 The concern, Huntington argued, is that we are in essence creating a separatist Quebec in the US southwest. This situation is viewed as even more dangerous from the perspective of the United States, because
6. Amy Chua provides an overview of the literature on the United States and its emergence as an empire, particularly of those supporting the idea (Amy Chua, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominanceand Why They Fall, New York: Doubleday, 2007). Advocates of the United States taking up the imperial mantle are Deepak Lal, In Praise of Empires: Globalization and Order, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004; and Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, New York: Penguin Group, 2004. 7. Bryan Ward-Perkins, for instance, helpfully surveys the changing historiography in Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005, 110 and 16983. Every volume treating the topic, however, recites this standard litany. 8. Huntington, Hispanic Challenge, 445.

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the Mexican immigrants coming to the region have a historical claim to it dating back to the sixteenth century, along with easy geographic access. We should note, however, that such ahistorical grumbling today ignores the urban ghettoization and subsequent mainstreaming of nearly every ethnic group in American history since the nineteenth century. Many cities have a Little Italy or a Chinatown, but these are fast shrinking in size and becoming more like nostalgic destination sites for meals and festivals than exclusive neighborhoodsyet another testament to the path toward the goal of integration that each immigrant group follows in turn. *** In our teaching experience, language is central to our discussion on two levels: rst, we mean the common language that all within a culture use to communicate, and second, we mean the language or labels used to describe outsiders seeking to become part of the society they enter. This latter sense of the word language takes us into the categories of just who a barbarian is, and who gets to say so. We begin by taking up the issue of a common language, which can be dened as a written and spoken tongue that all know and can use to communicate. Huntington argued in his essay The Hispanic Challenge: A persuasive case can be made that, in a shrinking world, all Americans should know at least one important foreign languageChinese, Japanese, Hindi, Russian, Arabic, Urdu, French, German, or Spanishso as to understand a foreign culture and communicate with its people. It is quite different to argue that Americans should know a non-English language in order to communicate with their fellow citizens.9 This argument resonates among some concerned about immigration, legal or illegal, even though most studies suggest that immigrants, including those from Spanish-speaking countries, lose command of the language of their forebears by the third generation.10
9. Huntington, Hispanic Challenge, 38. 10. Gregory Rodriguez offers several studies to back up this assertion, see Gregory Rodriguez, Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, New York: Pantheon Books, 2007, 22934. Some of the best work on this subject, and on immigrants in general, has been done by Alejandro Portes and Rubn G. Rumbaut; see specically Alejandro Portes and Rubn G. Rumbaut, Immigrant America: A Portrait, Berkeley, CA: U. of California P., 1996, 20722. The language pattern is common to immigrant groups, but for a unique look at Mexican-Americans, see David E. Lopez and Ricardo D. Stanton-Salazar, Mexican Americans: A Second Generation at Risk, Rubn

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Still, the emergence of Spanish in the United States as the second most spoken language raises questions about the emergence of a new national consciousness no longer expressed solely in English. Every time we call a business and they urge us to Press 1 for English or Press 2 for Spanish (in some regions there are more linguistic choices), we are reminded of how the United States is evolving from a monolingual society to one conducting business in many different languages. The very argument about the historical primacy of English in the United States is an assumption worth exploring for any student of American history. The dominant language in Florida was Spanish for 300 years until 1819, when the United States acquired it from Spain. The same can be said of the US southwest: the present states of Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California were all part of Mexico until the 1830s and 1840s when a series of confrontations led to their annexation by the United States. Language diversity was further enriched by the many indigenous languages in both regions. Once again, historical context could inform caricatures. It is instructive and ironic to note that Mexicans express similar concerns about the corruption of Spanish by English phrases such as biznes, ko-breik, and quik lonches.11 Moving to the second sense of the word language, we come to the labels applied to immigrants. One of the most well-known and controversial political voices in the United States in the modern anti-immigrant debate is former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who based his short-lived 2008 presidential primary campaign on immigration reform (a topic that unexpectedly disappeared in the 2008 general election cycle).12 Tancredo makes the comparison between the United States and Rome in his book In Mortal Danger, published in 2006.13 In this polemical work, Tancredo compares recent undocumented
G. Rumbaut and Alejandro Portes, eds, Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America, Berkeley, CA: U. of California P., 2001, 5790. 11. See Michael C. Meyer, William L. Sherman, and Susan M. Deeds, The Course of Mexican History, ninth edition, New York: Oxford UP, 2010, 55356. 12. Tancredo left the Republican Party in 2010 to unsuccessfully run for the governorship of Colorado on the American Constitution Party ticket. 13. Tom Tancredo, In Mortal Danger: The Battle for Americas Border and Security, Nashville, TN: WND Books, 2006, 501. This work is part of a recent outpouring of popular books dealing with the impending demise of the United States as a result of immigration, multiculturalism, a loss of ethical values, and a variety of other ills. Another strident attack against multiculturalism is Victor Davis Hansons Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2003. Both Mark Steyn and David Goldman discuss the fall of Rome in some detail, see Mark Steyn, After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2011, and David P. Goldman, How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too), Washington, DC: Regnery, 2011. Other works in this genre include Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions

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immigrants to barbarians who, urged on by the advocates of multiculturalism, are threatening the very existence of the United States. Tancredo writes, We are committing cultural suicide. Worse, by the time many of us recognize it, our country may itself be so weakened by these destructive inuences that the barbarians at the gate will only need to give a slight push, and the emaciated body of Western civilization will collapse in a heap.14 One persons barbarian invader is another persons hard-working immigrant. Who makes the determination as to who may aspire to be a member of a society and who must forever be destined to outsider status? This is where language plays a key role. Diversity and multiculturalism are at the core of the US immigration-fall of Rome debate precisely because self-identication inuences historical interpretation. The ethnic and racial diversity of the United States challenges us to reinterpret history from different perspectives and presents teachers with rich opportunities. Issues that were once interpreted from a primarily Eurocentric perspective now take on different meanings when viewed by those who were on the other side of the conquistadors sword. The European conquest of the Americas, once taught as the divinely ordained dispersion of Western progress and civilization, is now complicated by issues such as the possible European genocide of the indigenous populations of the Americas. Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday, must now be considered in the context of what happened after the ceremonial rst gathering of Pilgrims and Pokanoket Indians in the fall of 1621. Movements to suspend or reconsider purelycelebratory Columbus Day ceremonies and parades have emerged in various parts of the country.15 Indeed, one of the most striking features for those who study Mexico and the US southwest is precisely how a wide variety of culturesindigenous, Mexican, and North Americanhave blended to create a unique culture and history that goes beyond a black-and-white lens of barbarians and natives. The political
Imperil Our Country and Civilization, New York: St. Martins Press, 2002, and Patrick J. Buchanan, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?, New York: St. Martins Press, 2011. See also Tony Blankley, The Wests Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?, Washington, DC: Regnery, 2005. 14. Tancredo, In Mortal Danger, 501. 15. An intriguing revisionist work on the Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, and the aftermath is Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, New York: Penguin Group, 2006. With disapproval, Tancredo describes a movement in Denver inspired by American Indian organizations to rethink Columbus Day as another example of the all-out war on Western civilization; see Tancredo, In Mortal Danger, 25.

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boundaries of the southwest are no barrier to the cultural, social, and economic exchanges that have occurred in the US-Mexico border region for centuries. Gregory Rodriguez, for instance, argues that the persistent immigration of Mexicans and other Latin Americans to the United States is contributing to the breakdown of the traditional black and white racial dichotomy, forcing us to look at race in a many-hued way: Just as the emergence of the mestizos undermined the Spanish racial system in colonial Mexico, Mexican Americans, who have always confounded the Anglo American racial system, will ultimately destroy it, too.16 This topic of diversity is rich for exploration in the classroom because students in the United States realize that globalization inuences their culture, while it likewise inuences other cultures. One of the fundamental questions asked by those who look to Rome as a comparison is, Will these changes bring about the fall of the United States or transform it into a society more adaptable to the changing global community? So again, we must look more closely at Rome as the historical touchstone in this application of the past to the present, as Rep. Poe was trying to do in his Congressional speech. In the last generation of scholarship, interpretations of the fall of Rome evolved from the idea that the Empire was destroyed by a sudden series of dramatic events to a conception of a Rome that was gradually transformed over several centuries through its encounters with other cultures. Starting in the 1970s, one of the prime movers of the new historiography regarding Rome was Peter Brown, who argued that Classical Rome did not fall through barbarian invasions, but was instead organically replaced, during a long Late Antique period from the third century CE through the end of Charlemagnes reign in the early ninth century.17 After all, Charlemagne considered his capital of Aachen as a new Rome and himself as wearing Constantines mantle. In this argument, terms such as catastrophe, chaos, and decay were downplayed. Instead this school of thought focused on such concepts as transition, change, transformation, and integration. What this historiography emphasizes is continuity, evolution, and intellectual vibrancy. Rather than a narrative of violent invasion and conquest, this picture of Late Antiquity is one of encounter, accommodation, and intermarriage that bound cultures together

16. Rodriguez argues that the whole history of the region is steeped in the evolution of multiple heritages, see Rodriguez, Mongrels, ixxvii. 17. Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity, AD 150750, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971.

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in a manner that dees the clear and absolute distinction between Romans and barbarians.18 Let us look even more closely at a few recent discussions of the barbarian invasions and see if they can enlighten our exploration. We should acknowledge rst that the word barbarian has often been used by any one group to mean another group not a part of theirsit is a most basic statement of that fundamental distinction between us and them. While the word barbarian is rarely if ever used in discussions of immigrants (legal or otherwise) to the United States, the sense of otherness is inherent in the immigration debate, especially in a post-September 11 world. The words used to create the sense of otherness in the modern United States debate are illegal aliens. Pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant groups divide along the use of these words to describe those coming into the United States without proper documents or papers. The quickest way to discern where a person stands on the issue of immigration is to see how he or she addresses the people in question. Those favorable to immigrants in general refer to them as undocumented immigrants, noting that human beings cannot be illegal but only actions can be illegal. Humans are not aliens; only extra-terrestrials deserve such a designation. Terms like barbarian or illegal alien are intended to end debate, not encourage it. If someone is a barbarian or illegal alien, then any discussion about them must by force of language be focused on their strangeness rather than on the economic and social engines driving their immigration and movement. We also note that immigration is a modern term: the people that the Romans called barbarians were moving into more fertile, desirable, and potentially prosperous areas from their own. Using the word immigration in the late ancient world fails to t the evidence and does not appear in ancient sources. Thats not to say, however, that some modern historians (especially those writing most recently) havent made the connection. Peter Heather, in his Fall of the Roman Empire, refers to the barbarian-immigrant issue.19 He comfortably uses the
18. For instructive analyses that could easily be assigned to inform classroom discussion, see Edward James, Europes Barbarians AD 200600, Hanlow, England: Pearson, 2009, 102 28, 16173, and 193214. 19. Peter Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006, 43159. Heather put migration on a far larger chronological canvasand discussed the topic in the context of modern conceptions of European identity fueled by todays EU debatesin Peter Heather, Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe, London: Pan, 2010. On these Late Antique centuries, see ibid., 7293 and 122206. In those segments, Heather emphasizes intended interaction as the key to positive transformation of Romans and non-Romans alike. For an intriguing discussion of Roman identity on the periphery, see Louise Revell, Roman Imperialism and Local Identities, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009, 1913.

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words immigrants, licensed immigration, and asylum seekers. For Heather, the invasions of 376380 and 405408 were successful as far as the barbarians were concerned: their rst wave engendered condence to launch a second wave. Still, Heather believes that it was not so much the frontiers that fell as Romes very center. Romanitas, that culturally synthetic Roman-ness that the empire was spreading, lived on in the provinces where it mixed with local customs, laws, ways of life, and sensitivities. So, too, civil unrest undermined the empire: because taxes rose, the need for defense rose as well, but those paying the taxes felt that they were paying for greater security while getting less of it. Indeed, local Romans and Roman-leaning locals on the frontiers paid invaders to go around their lands and to provide protection from invaders farther aeld. This system replaced the dwindling central support from Rome, leading allegiance and identity to shift from center to periphery. From a comparative standpoint, this would seem an area of signicant difference between the late Roman empire and the United States in the rst decades of the twenty-rst century. There is no organized military threat along the southern border, prompting some to maintain that the real issue underlying the immigration debate is race, not security.20 In the modern context, there is no need to pay off invaders; rather, we see the employment of those crossing the US-Mexico border in a wide variety of less desirable jobs from crop harvesting to landscaping to strenuous manual labor. Even when harvesting jobs are made available to US-born workers, few apply for them and even fewer nish the harvesting season.21 Those in pro-immigration circles argue that immigrants are doing the jobs most North Americans will not do, while some in the anti-immigrant camp contend that

20. There is, however, the on-going drug war in Mexico that occasionally spills into the United States or claims the lives of US citizens. The lurid headlines and details of mass graves, decapitations, and murder of innocent civilians further iname the immigration debate (see Jos de Crdoba, Mexican Drug War Yields a Grisly Toll, Wall Street Journal, 13 May 2012, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/ SB10001424052702303505504577402052157957594.html, accessed 31 May 2012). There were 111 US citizens murdered in Mexico in 2010 alone; see Daniel Hernandez, How Many Have Died in Mexicos Drug War?, Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2011, available at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laplaza/2011/06/mexico-war-dead-update-gures-40000. html, accessed 31 May 2012. 21. Alejandro Portes, The Fence to Nowhere, The American Prospect, 23 September 2007, available at http://prospect.org/article/fence-nowhere, accessed 25 January 2012. Portes includes the following example to illustrate the point: In North Carolina, the annual harvest requires about 150,000 agricultural workers. In a recent year, 6,000 openings were reserved for U.S. workers at $9.02 per hour. A total of 120 applied, 25 showed up to work on the rst day, and none nished the harvest (ibid.).

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foreign workers depress wages to a point that US workers cannot support themselves doing manual labor. Is there an American lesson to be drawn here from the supposed end of the Roman Empire? As with the current immigration debate in the US, the answer depends upon whom you ask. It is interesting to note that Oxford University Press covered its bases by publishing Heathers monograph a year after Bryan WardPerkins The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. Ward-Perkins returns to an earlier historiographical argument which says that there was indeed a fall and that it was violent, a nearly total transformation, and not at all gradual. Ward-Perkins engages the newer orthodoxy when treating the work of Walter Goffart, who contends that barbarians were invited to cross the borders and settle, to share in the burden and benets of taxation, and to enjoy Romanitas; they did not come armed and streaming across the borders to attack, destroy, and continue into the heart of the empire.22 What the Romans permitted was an intentional buffer zone, but once the barbarians moved in, they soon took over as Romes control eroded. In addition, as with the United States, there was a long-standing tension between Roman imperial rhetoric and reality with regards to barbarians/immigrants. Goffart notes that Instinctive Greco-Roman hostility to barbarians coexisted with a long and proud Roman tradition of openness to outsiders. . . . Hostility to barbarians was built into the language; almost by denition, barbarians stood for what imperial citizens shunned. But literature does not directly mirror everyday reality. Sheer aversion was not a practical attitude in an age of rapid social and cultural change.23 Similar contradictions exist with US immigration policy and public attitudes toward immigrants. Undocumented immigration has been a civil offense for decades and yet for many years, since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, there was little federal enforcement of worker sanctions and no efforts to address and regulate a labor market that thirsts for this labor force. As a result of this broken immigration system, there are today an estimated
22. For Walter Goffarts argument (even if it is not directly engaged by Ward-Perkins because it was published a year later), see Walter Goffart, Barbarian Tides: The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire, Philadelphia, PA: U. of Pennsylvania P., 2006. Ward-Perkins does accurately portray Goffarts earlier fundamental thesis, updated in this 2006 study. The continuing relevance of this changing historiography was noted explicitly in the rst line of a review of Goffarts study: The Roman Empire is being assassinated by barbarians once more: Brian Croke, Catholic Historical Review 94, January 2008, 13132. 23. Goffart, Barbarian Tides, 191, 192.

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10 to 15 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Enforcement and deportations have climbed dramatically during the Obama Presidency, much to the chagrin and surprise of immigrant activists.24 In the midst of an election year, President Obama via executive order ordered a halt to the deportation of upwards of one million individuals brought over as children without proper documentation, a move described as a cynical political ploy by his critics. In addition to the uneven enforcement of immigration laws, there is also the national narrative, most frequently proclaimed on July 4, that the United States is a country of immigrants, with a long history of acceptance and tolerance. This declaration stands alongside an equally impressive history of immigrant scapegoating and oppression. Recent examples of this struggle can be found in the harsh, but popular anti-immigrant laws recently passed in a number of states, most famously Arizona, but also including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah. Some of the harshest aspects of the Arizona law, known as S.B. 1070, were struck down by the US Supreme Court in the summer of 2012, although a provision allowing state and local police ofcers to ask for immigration documents in cases where individuals were suspected of committing a crime was allowed to remain intact. The court, however, did leave it open for interested parties to challenge that provision if racial or ethnic proling resulted in its implementation. The high courts ruling left pro- and anti-immigration advocates gearing up for the next phase of litigious warfare; states with similar laws are now grappling with how to amend them to come into compliance with the court ruling. *** Whether they were barbarians or immigrants, then or now, people moving from one place to another must cross from one territory to the next one over. This leads our discussion to borders and walls as another category used to compare ancient Rome with modern America. With regards to Rome, both older and recent work on Roman frontiers paint less of a picture of a stubborn and absolute brick wall than a doorway that was
24. Some of the best research on Latino issues in the United States is conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and in a December 2011 study they found that deportations have increased by about 30% since Obama took ofce (see Mark Hugo Lopez, Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, and Seth Motel, As Deportations Rise to Record Levels, Most Latinos Oppose Obamas Policy, Pew Hispanic Center, 28 December 2011, available at http://www.pewhispanic.org/2011/12/ 28/as-deportations-rise-to-record-levels-most-latinos-oppose-obamas-policy/, accessed 31 May 2012). The vast majority of the 400,000 deported are Latinos and yet the president maintains a high popularity among potential Latino voters.

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meant to be used on a regular basis and one that was sometimes opened wider in extraordinary circumstances. In their often-cited study of the erection of Hadrians Wall in second-century Britain, David J. Breeze and Brian Dobson note, The purpose of the barrier was to control movement, not to prevent it, as the liberal provision of gateways [about a half-mile apart from each other] demonstrates.25 Here we have a uid, not xed, boundary. Those entering paid a fee, like a custom or toll, probably had to enter and exit unarmed, and may have passed through with some frequency. Looking at northern Germania, Susan P. Mattern found a similar situation: The distinction between foreign relations and domestic affairs must have been blurred, especially if one could not easily look at a map to determine whether the Frisii, for example, lived on one side of the Rhine or the other. Indeed, in spite of general talk of the empires boundaries, the frontier itself has a nebulous quality; it is often difcult to tell whether we should consider a certain tribe or area in or out.26 Perhaps the classic story of Roman attempts to control a ood of refugees with unintended consequences for bothoccurred in the years leading up to 376 CE, when the Huns pushed the Goths ahead of them, which caused the Goths to want to settle in Roman Thrace for protection (Congressman Poe was telling this story in his 2006 speech). These refugees sought and received permission to cross the Danube from the emperor Valens, who needed farmers, soldiers, and tax revenue.27 The Romans initially ferried them over, provided food and temporary shelter, and tried to record all of their names. But the ood of refugees grew faster and larger than expected. Once the Romans escorted the documented refugees away from the river, other Goths crossed without Roman oversight. The Romans soon lost control of the Goths, in large part because the Romans exploited the Goth refugees, failed to provide adequate food and shelter, and subjected them to mistreatment. The Goths turned on them violently and won skirmishes because they outnumbered the Romans, with the Battle of Adrianople in 378 representing a devastating victory over Roman forces. Recent work on Roman borders takes up the issue of ordinary migration and issues related to the modern notion of immigration more explicitly. C. R. Whit25. David J. Breeze and Brian Dobson, Hadrians Wall, London: Allen Lane, 1970, 378. 26. Susan P. Mattern, Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate, Berkeley, CA: U. of California P., 1999, 11718. 27. Lenski, Failure of Empire, 32067; Barbero, The Day of the Barbarians, 3349.

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taker sees frontier collapse as a result of a slow creep instead of a violent and large invasion; there is much evidence of intended interaction.28 The German frontiers, like Hadrians Wall, were probably never designed to be impenetrable or exclusively defensive. For centuries, non-Romans could cross borders and settle within Roman territories peacefully and as a welcome addition. Non-Roman elites in the foederati made their way into the upper levels of the Roman administration and military, while ordinary folk manned the army as foot soldiers. There was, he concludes, all the ingredients of frontier dynamics: surplus population, cultural homogeneity, and a long period of symbiotic exchange.29 This brief historiographical discussion of the Roman Empires frontiers should add nuance to the current debate over the construction of a supposedly Roman-style wall across the southern border between the United States and Mexico. Clearly the intent of many of those espousing it is to create a rigid border to keep Mexicans and other Latin-Americans out (some would add terrorists to this list), but the word wall is misleading in the modern US context. In the last decade, Congressional debate has focused on the construction of a 700-mile fence along parts of the border between Mexico and the United States at an estimated cost of $6 billion. The debate culminated with passage by Congress of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The Mexico-US border is about 2000 miles, so the double-layered fence was intended to cover only about a third of the border region. Construction of the fence, which will utilize a network of security cameras, is currently bogged down in disputes over the environmental and economic impact on United States border communities. As a result, the actual cost has ballooned to as much as $21 million per mile of fence. This cost is for a single fence, not the double-fence anticipated by the supporters of the legislation. US Customs and Border Protection estimates it would cost another $22.4 billion to extend a single fence across the remaining 1,400 miles of borderlands. The fence has wreaked havoc in communities like Brownsville, Texas, where some residents have found their homes on the south side of the fence in a virtual no-mans land between the

28. C. R. Whittaker, Frontiers of the Roman Empire: A Social and Economic Study, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994, 20242, and C. R. Whittaker, Rome and Its Frontiers: The Dynamics of Empire, London: Routledge, 2004, 20413. For similar conclusions, see Benjamin Isaac, The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East, rev. ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992, 372418. For a discussion of the historiographical issues at work, see Kulikowski, Romes Gothic Past, 3470. 29. Whittaker, Frontiers, 219.

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two countries.30 Finally, there is no proof that it will work. As of yet, there are few scholarly studies attempting to measure its effectiveness, although anecdotes abound of immigrants climbing over the fence, burrowing underneath it, or crossing through gaps in it. The subject presents rich possibilities for analysis and debate as seen in the 2012 Republican presidential primary debates where one candidate proposed an electried fence across the border and another suggested a virtual militarization of the border. A teacher or student might ask: Has there ever been a wall or fence erected that was successful in keeping people out without addressing social and economic issues on both sides of the barrier? This question might be asked about walls and fences separating Israeli and Palestinian territories or about the Great Wall of China, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, or the Berlin Wall, as well as virtual barriers represented by spam lters, passwordprotected websites, and the denial of Internet access by certain regimes such as Cuba and China. In any case, in contrast to Rome, the proposed fence is not seen as a doorway but as a barrier to access by those supporting it in Congress and among the general US public. This makes the Roman analogy moot once we acknowledge the deliberately-porous nature of Roman borders. *** The meaning of citizenship is another central topic in the fall of Rome-US immigration debate and historical analogy. In the case of Rome, as with modern America, the concept of citizenship was subject to tensions. Roman citizenship was extended, every now and again, to residents within imperial limits, including freed slaves. This was often done to increase tax revenue and to promote bureaucratic and military service. Citizenship was linked to political duty, legal privilege, and economic burden in a way familiar to many cultures, including our own. Then, as now, there were opponents, as there were in the late Republic when citizenship was extended to non-Italian provincials and even to former enemies.
30. For some examples of the impact of the border fence, see Oscar Casares, Border Fence Upends a Valley Farmers Life, The New York Times, 26 November 2011, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/us/border-fence-upends-a-rio-grande-valley-farmerslife.html, accessed 25 January 2012; Julia Preston, Some Cheer Border Fence as Others Ponder the Cost, The New York Times, 19 October 2011, available at: http:// www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/us/politics/border-fence-raises-cost-questions.html, accessed 25 January 2012; and Liz Goodwin, The Texans who live on the Mexican side of the border fence: Technically, were in the United States, The Lookout, 21 December 2011, available at http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/texas-americans-live-wrong-side-borderfence-christmas-183312787.html, accessed 25 January 2012.

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The most famous and emblematic for our purposes occurred when the emperor Caracalla, in 212 CE, in a wholesale move, granted citizenship to anyone who was already a free person living within Romes borders. This was largely done because of a desperate need for soldiers and tax money. Similarly, US military ofcials have debated whether to recruit more heavily from the immigrant community among both documented and undocumented people. During Congressional debates over immigration in 2007 (a year after Rep. Poes speech), a proposal was oated to allow undocumented immigrants to serve in the military in return for instant legal status and a path to full citizenship, a measure supported by the Defense Department. At the present time, undocumented immigrants are not allowed to serve in the military but legal permanent residents are permitted to do so. Well over 100 immigrants (so-called green card soldiers) have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Some of them have received citizenship posthumously. In the modern US context, some argue that undocumented immigrants are abusing US citizenship laws. Supposedly, women cross the border and give birth in the United States to ensure citizenship for their children, if not for themselves, thereby diluting the meaning and importance of citizenship. This argument suggests that, since anyone born within the political boundaries of the United States is automatically a citizen, an incentive is created for people from poorer nations to come here and have what is referred to as anchor babies. As a result, there has been an effort by some to eliminate birth-right citizenship. The most recent attempt is the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 introduced in the US House of Representatives by Iowa Congressman Steve King. Similar measures have been introduced during every congressional session since 2005, but the bill has languished for lack of sufcient support. Those championing the legislation make the case that the courts have misread the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment that, when ratied in 1868, was aimed at providing citizenship rights to recently freed slaves. Critics argue that the Fourteenth Amendment should not be applied to the children of undocumented immigrants in the current context. Tancredo again refers to Rome and the value of Roman citizenship as an incentive for the United States to cautiously guard entry into the ranks of citizenship, arguing that [c]itizenship should be as important to Americans as it was to the Ancient Romans.31 What this statement misses, however, is the fact that the Romans had a fairly elastic notion of citizenship. While guarding the status in the main, Roman authorities held citizenship out as a goal to be achieved to spread Romanitas from

31. Tancredo, In Mortal Danger, 194.

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the empires center to its periphery. Roman citizenship was controlled and restricted, to be sure, but also shared and not withheld entirely. Most of the arguments on the pro-immigration side attempt to paint the birth-right citizenship proposal as outside the political mainstream and aimed at garnering votes for and from political conservatives. But those who oppose efforts to retain birth-right citizenship have been less systematic in creating philosophical arguments against the proposed legislation, perhaps because they do not see a great likelihood that it will pass. There has been little discussion on the proimmigrant side of the use of restrictive citizenship measures as a potential threat to other stigmatized groups. Were the precedent established, would the United States government use similar measures against former nationals of a country with which we are at war? One only need recall the treatment of Japanese-heritage US citizens during the Second World War and their systematic placement in internment camps to recognize the potential for ominous measures restricting and restructuring citizenship. Some legal scholars have argued that the restriction of citizenship rights would undermine the principle of equality which is at the core of our system of jurisprudence.32 A 1994 article in the Harvard Law Review made the following observation about a birth-right citizenship proposal circulating at the time: . . . Congress and the states should reject the proposed citizenship amendment because it conicts with one of the foundations upon which American society is builtthe principle of equality before the law. One facet of this constitutionally based principle, as illustrated by the Supreme Courts jurisprudence relating to illegitimate children, demands that certain children not be treated differently from other children solely on account of the actions or status of their parents. Because the equality principle encompasses the case of American-born children of undocumented aliens, the citizenship amendment would thus conict with this ideal.33 Legal historian Mae M. Ngai argues that at times in our history a sort of alien citizenship has emerged in practice.34 This is when racialized identity, she
32. Two excellent legal analyses are [an.], The Birthright Citizenship Amendment: A Threat to Equality, Harvard Law Review 107, March 1994, 102643; and Joseph H. Carens, Review: Who Belongs? Theoretical and Legal Questions about Birthright Citizenship in the United States, The University of Toronto Law Journal 37, Autumn 1987, 41343. 33. Birthright Citizenship Amendment, 1028. 34. Mae M. Ngai, Birthright Citizenship and the Alien Citizen, Fordham Law Review 5, 2007, 252130 at 2521.

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writes, is used to deny citizenship rights to non-European immigrants even when they legally qualify as citizens because of their birth within the boundaries of the United States.35 *** Finally, it is worthwhile to consider two books for audiences beyond academic circles and secondary-school classrooms that take up several topics raised in this essay. Cullen Murphys Are We Rome? considers the linkage between the Roman and American empires.36 Murphy is a journalist trying to reach a broad audience, who did his history homework well. Here we have a fairly well-informed, thought-provoking popular treatment of Roman and American walls and borders that channel and control the movement of goods and people rather than block them entirely. Murphy accepts the portrait of border uidity and identies two historiographical camps when it comes to borders: those who see them as limits and those who see borders as loose boundaries. Murphy, too, uses the word immigrants to describe barbarians, observing that Rome let some in and gave them a measure of permanent status and autonomy, which was the initial goal in the 376 CE tale that Rep. Poe was telling. He nds in ancient Rome and modern America a similar process of assimilation that cannot be stopped and identies this fact as a good thing for all involved. Murphy makes two specically important and accurate points concerning Rome. First, the barbarians wanted to get into the Roman Empire because it was doing well, not because it was failing. In words that describe the late Roman Empire but seem to come out of American talk radio and cable TV, Murphy writes, First in the borderlands of empire and then farther inside, they were given jobs that Romans didnt want or couldnt ll, in the elds and the mines and the forts, including jobs as seasonal laborers.37 Second, the Roman Empire wanted immigrants in part because assimilation had long been a hallmark of imperial rule and successful administration of a vast and diverse empire. This fundamental notion embodied in imperial Romecreating unity out of diversityhas been a grail of geopolitics ever since.38
35. Ibid., 2521. 36. Cullen Murphy, Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifin, 2007. 37. Ibid., 167. 38. Ibid., 184.

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Amy Chua, approaching the issue from a broader perspective, agrees with Murphys central tenets in her Day of Empire.39 Chua looked at a number of prior world empires, among them Rome, arguing that they rose because they were, relative to their times, tolerant, diverse, and able to incorporate and assimilate people from a wide range of ethnic and racial groups. In a paradoxical thesis, she claims that tolerance led to intolerance, internal conict, decline, and disintegration. She repeats this premise when applying the model to the U.S. today: From the beginning, immigration has been the fuel of American wealth and innovation, providing the United States with a continuing human-capital edge that has proven equally decisive in the industrial, atomic, and computer ages.40 In fact, Chua argues that intolerance and xenophobia are among the greatest threats to United States power and inuence in the world, noting that dominant powers have fallen precisely when their core groups turned intolerant.41 Therein lies precisely the type of cautionary tale a historian might seek as we assess, in the end, just how Rome has been used in the American immigration debate. With historically grounded objective evidence, the Rome-immigration debate can serve as a wonderful analytical tool for the classroom and beyond, especially because the debate is too often based on caricatures. Seldom are Rome and the United States used in public debate by those with an intimate knowledge of Roman history, of the history of the United States southwest and Mexico, or of recent studies of worldwide immigration trends. Instead, uncontextualized slivers of historical fact are used to create grand models and schemes often predicting apocalyptic catastrophe for the United States if policy corrections are not enacted in the near future. This is where our teachable moments come in. Looking more closely at some of the terms we have discussed, we determine in particular that the use of Roman borders as a metaphor for walls that should go up in the southwest United States is a political football that needs to be punted. Roman walls were porous tolls, not impenetrable barriers. Trying to employ a Roman metaphor for this aspect of the American immigration story today is a terrible model that is applied incorrectly. On the question of citizenship, however, we have a more subtle situation to consider. Romans wanted to extend citizenship for the same reasons that Americans do: to expand inuence but also to increase a sense of civic duty that will include taxes for all and military service for some.

39. Chua, Day of Empire, 2958. 40. Ibid., 325. 41. Ibid., 337.

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Americans want new citizens to earn their place fairly and legally. So did the Romans, but the Romans did not so jealousy guard their citizenship to the extent that they kept it entirely aloof or tried to redene it so narrowly as to make it nearly unattainable. Rather, they offered several levels of belonging designed to protect present citizens but also to provide a path for others to become citizens. Those who want to use a notion of Roman citizenship as entirely exclusionary employ a model that is faulty and not grounded in historical reality. Those who want to offer these genuine Roman pathways as a model that might be applied protably to the United States today, meanwhile, may have a more convincing case. As a lesson in moving forward and expanding the American ideal, it works; as a talking point to keep people out, it fails. Another nuanced issue is one of accommodation, which is related to our questions of language and identity. Can someone who starts as one of them (an ancient barbarian or modern illegal alien) become one of us (an ancient Roman or modern American)? Here, a Roman model can cut both ways based on where a commentator stands. Is accommodation a good thing or a bad thing? Do we want our culture to expand and enculturate others? Do we want other cultures to inuence ours? An ancient example of loathing of newcomers might help, if for no other reason than to remind us that fear of outsiders is nothing new. We nd in Juvenal, the sharp-tongued Roman satirist of the early second century CE, a lamentation that might ring true for some today: Now, let me say something about a people our rich men love but whom I try my best to avoid. Im not ashamed to say it: I cant stand a Rome full of Greeks! Of course, our citys scum is made of more than Greeks. For years the Syrian Orontes has been pouring into the Tiber, dumping its lingo and its manners, . . . Look at that fellow over there! His profession is being whatever you want him to be: grammarian, orator, geometrician, painter, trainer, soothsayer, rope-dancer, doctor, magician a hungry Greek will do anything. . . . Why should I be forced out of my own hometown by these purple-robed dandies? Is some easterner blown here by the same oriental wind that brings us our prunes and gs going to sign

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his name before mine and lie upon a softer couch? Does it count for nothing that I was here rst . . . ?42 We hasten to add that at the same time the Romans were complaining, they could not get enough of Greek culture, leading to the instructive and accurate maxim, Rome conquered Greece, but Greece conquered Rome. But perhaps this is precisely the point: accommodation and assimilation may be seen by some as a goal, but by others as a capitulation. Some proponents of multiculturalism might cheer an American cognate to Romes relative globalization, which indeed helped it create an empire that shared Romanitas while drawing on the strengths of others, but at the same time others would turn to the phrase, Rome conquered Greece, but Greece conquered Rome not with joy but with mourningand quote Juvenal as their bard. Both sides, in other words, might interpret the very same historical paradigm in support of opposing positions. Exploring these competing interpretations would be a particularly good lesson for students as they assess the use of history in political debates. We also suggest that teachers, scholars, and writers should consider how the debate has been framed and whether it needs to be tilted on its axis. For example, rarely do scholars, activists, or pundits ask about the implications for the Gauls or the Germanic tribes subjugated by Roman armies several hundred years before the Roman empire faded. What about the impact on those societies of the settlement of their lands by Roman citizens protected by the military? Why do we just focus on how immigration-invasion affected the mighty Roman Empire and fail to turn the question around to look at it from the perspective of the conquered? Why not consider the viewpoint of the so-called barbarian? Are those omissions rooted in a sort of historiographical imperialism or determinism that suggests not all immigrants or societies are created equal? These sorts of questions would force us to look at immigration from the viewpoint of the vanquished. If the question were to be pursued further, we might look at the Mexican immigration debate very differently. Such an analysis would focus on the struggles for Texas independence in the 1830s and the later Mexican-American War of 18461848 that led the United States to annex nearly one-half of Mexican territory, and then encourage and defend the settlement of it by predominantly Anglophones. Ironically, the loss of Texas by Mexico in the 1830s, one could argue, is rooted in their efforts to encourage North American immigration to their underpopulated northern region.
42. Juvenal, Satire 3, as rendered in Bradley P. Nystrom and Stylianos V. Spyridakis, eds, Ancient Rome: Documentary Perspectives, second ed., Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company, 1995, 1701.

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The unwillingness of North American settlers to accept the authority of the Mexican government, to speak Spanish, and to convert to Roman Catholicism have been frequently cited as causes for the split from Mexico. This sort of comparison would add complexity and irony to the current debate about Mexican immigration to the United States southwest. We have raised these questions in this manner because, as historians and teachers, we should interpret the past based on new questions suggested by the modern world, by new perspectives, and by expanding evidence and interpretive models even as we reconsider traditional questions and answers. So is the United States on the verge of collapse and is immigration a major component in that unraveling? From our perspective at a diverse and multicultural university campus, where dozens of languages can be heard around campus, the answer is a resounding no. But, historically speaking, in this debate like so many others, the answer is often dependent on the set of questions being posed and the historian, amateur or professional, asking them. This political football provides an opportunity for students and the public-at-large to see how history is used, abused, stretched, and folded to further modern policy debates. Such debate sheds light on the past as well as the present because so much of what we see and say about the past says a great deal about ourselves, toowhich is yet another important lesson for us all.

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