How is it a nation of immigrants could turn its back on immigrants? That question came up at a Paris powwow I recently attended.

I reframed the question. I said the proper inquiry should be, "How could a nation of immigrants turn its back on 'illegal' immigrants?"

But I had a greater point: The United States simply isn't the country or size it once was.

I likened it in terms my French hosts could understand:

More than a century ago, the U.S. was like the hot new restaurant in town. People began hearing about us and wanted in.

Early on, the restaurant owner could accommodate the eager diners. Then the diners kept coming and coming. And suddenly the owner had to start taking reservations to handle the inflow.

We are that restaurant and everyone wants a bite from us. The problem is more than a few are willing to take a bite out of us.

It's killing the service and the quality of the food. Suddenly, the restaurant owner is overwhelmed and things just aren't what they were.

Some of my French listeners seemed to understand. The analogy appealed to them.

I reminded them that France has strict standards on who gets in — so does the United States.

I commended my French hosts for doing a better job controlling things like that — maybe because they know a thing or two about good restaurants and keeping them good.

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