David Knowlton: Country would collapse without constant immigration

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David Knowlton, Behavioral Science professor at Utah Valley University and sociocultural anthropologist spoke about nativism in the U.S., immigration in the 19th century and current immigration in the U.S. at the Multicultural Student Council’s Diversity Lecture Dec. 9.

In the 19th century, Scandinavians in Utah were immigrants who were often blamed for many problems and were viewed prejudicially by American whites. Knowlton noted that in 165 years, President Monson has been the first Scandinavian to occupy the first presidency in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“This is an old American custom, it’s not new, it’s called Nativism. The United States for generations, if not hundreds of years, has practiced the art of blaming the recent immigrant for the problem of the society and the people,” Knowlton said.

Knowlton said over 80 million people, Europeans mostly, came to the U.S. in the 19th century, comparing the movement to the world tipping up and Europe spilling out. At the time it was common for American families to have relatives that spoke more than one language and that there are still American Midwest towns where German is the spoken language.

Knowlton discussed how people don’t talk about certain aspects of immigration, such as why immigrants are coming into the United States. One of the aspects being, how the U.S. motivates and creates problems abroad so that people want to immigrate.

“We don’t talk about the economic necessity of immigration within the U.S. This is a country that would collapse without constant immigration,” Knowlton said.

According to Knowlton Donald Trump’s comments on the denigration of the Mexican population in the United States has started a movement of Latinos into the mainstream—politically and socially—in a way that has not been seen before.

“Mr. Trump has performed an interesting service by drawing people into the fold by insulting them, by pressuring them, by speaking ill of very important and very powerful people in the United States,” Knowlton said. “In a way, Trump is beating that drum, the drum of Nativism.”

According to Knowlton, diversity is fairly new in Utah County. The growth of the LDS church brings people from all over the world.

“Immigration in general is a complex issue. The benefits in the U.S. are adding more diverse ideas and adding to the workforce. It’s the fountain of youth for a country, it allows for more creativity, teamwork and compassion,” Cristobal Villegas, UVUSA liaison and academic chair of the Multicultural Student Council said.