Yeah, yeah, Abraham Lincoln wasn't really thinking about immigrants from Mexico when he talked up the good of diversifying our population through an influx of newbies. But considering that whole freeing-the-slaves thing, there's a good chance he wouldn't have cared where the immigrants came from. In fact, regarding freeing slaves, during a speech in Chicago on July 10, 1858, he responded to his opponent for the Senate, Stephen Douglas, by kicking him in the taint with those long legs: "I protest, now and forever, against that counterfeit logic which presumes that because I did not want a negro woman for a slave, I do necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I need not have her for either, but, as, God made us separate, we can leave one another alone, and do one another much good thereby." This is followed by some uncomfortable talk about mixed-race marriages, but at least Lincoln put himself and the "negro woman" on equal footing.
In that same speech, given as part of 4th of July celebrations, in a section that is often cited by conservatives for its affirmation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln lays down some logs of truth about the necessity of immigrants to the still-growing country:
"We are now a mighty nation; we are thirty, or about thirty, millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years, and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country, with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men; we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men; they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity which we now enjoy has come to us.
"We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time, of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves, we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live, for these celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these, men descended by blood from our ancestors—among us, perhaps half our people, who are not descendants at all of these men; they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.
"If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world."
A little later, after saying that he disagreed with the Dred Scott decision, Lincoln added, "I should like to know if, taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it, and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it? If it is not true let us tear it out! (The audience yelled, 'No') Let us stick to it, then; let us stand firmly by it, then." Lincoln believed, and he expressed it often, that you either mean "equal" or you don't and can go fuck yourself.
But the tall man with squeaky voice didn't just talk the talk. As president, he called on Congress to pass legislation to encourage immigration. When he was nominated for reelection in 1864, the Republican Party platform contained this resolution: "That foreign immigration,
which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development of
resources and increase of power to this nation, the asylum of the
oppressed of all nations, should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal
and just policy." The act was passed, which allowed Lincoln to appoint a Commissioner of Immigration.
And in his final annual message to Congress, Lincoln wrote, "The act passed at the last session for the
encouragement of immigration has so far as was possible been put into
operation. It seems to need amendment which will enable the officers of
the Government to prevent the practice of frauds against the immigrants
while on their way and on their arrival in the ports, so as to secure
them here a free choice of avocations and places of settlement. A
liberal disposition toward this great national policy is manifested by
most of the European States, and ought to be reciprocated on our part by
giving the immigrants effective national protection. I regard our
immigrants as one of the principal replenishing streams which are
appointed by Providence to repair the ravages of internal war and its
wastes of national strength and health. All that is necessary is to
secure the flow of that stream in its present fullness, and to that end
the Government must in every way make it manifest that it neither needs
nor designs to impose involuntary military service upon those who come
from other lands to cast their lot in our country."
Now, you can also argue that Lincoln was talking about legal immigration, but, actually, he was for creating a system to make immigration easier and to treat those who came here with dignity. Republicans, of course, won't talk about that Lincoln.