Monday, May 29, 2006

We are all immigrants

Many who are engaged in the immigration debate assume that there are two groups of people in this country, immigrates and non-immigrants. Their arguments draw a deep dark line between people, marking a distinction that, in truth, does not exist. This faulty way of thinking would classify me, and my ancestors, as non-immigrants. My most recent immigrant ancestors were a pair of great grandparents, originally from Germany, who met and wed in South Dakota during the 1880’s. Nearly all my lines of ancestry were in North America back in the 1600 or 1700’s. Yet my family is indeed an immigrant family, as are all families, even those who wish to claim otherwise. Native Americans came to North America in several waves of immigration over the past 20 thousand years. The rest of us immigrated much more recently.

My ancestors witnessed wave after wave of immigration and worked with more recent immigrants who built this country and made it the wonderful land it is today. Yet, sadly, my ancestors and I have also watched as some of these immigrants, once they became established, turned on subsequent immigrants and attempted to deny them the same opportunities their own families enjoyed. The reasons given for denying others are many and varied, but are mostly, I would say, ignorance or a mean-spirited dislike of others. The most popular excuse offered today feigns a newly found concern for “fairness,” the claim is that it’s not fair that current immigrants should be allowed citizenship when others couldn’t find a way to come to this land of opportunity.

How disingenuous! Why this sudden interest in “fairness” from those so interested in denying others what they themselves were once given? There is nothing fair about immigration. Millions have died attempting to get to America and will never know “fairness.” The route to immigration has always been blocked with physical, financial, and legal impediments none of which were fair. This so called “fairness” excuse is voiced, I believe, by those same people who want to erect even more unfair barriers.

It is sad that selfish people select such a short sighted view, or that they simply lack the mental capacity to look at history. If they would open their eyes to reality, they would see that each and every wave of immigration to our country has been followed by ever higher levels of prosperity. Each wave of immigration has fueled a leap forward in science and education with first and second generation immigrants leading the way. Indeed, the 1990’s were years of unparalleled prosperity in this country. This prosperity, of course, was not unconnected to the immigration during the 1980’s and 1990’s when many Mexican and Asian immigrants came to do the work of the booming economy.

Ours is, and has always been, a nation of immigrants. I’d like to invite those wishing to deny to others their own ancestor’s American dream, those who take no pride in this great nation’s true character; I’d like to invite these selfish people to go back to the country of their ancestors, to stop sewing the seeds of dissention and allow the greatness of this country to shine, and allow the rest of us to enjoy our rich heritage of proud resourceful dynamic immigrants working and living together.

By Daniel Barrett, Rockford, Illinois USA

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

In this whole debate about ILLEGAL immigration, I have never heard any reasonable person calling for no immigration.

The issue is simple, whether it be robbing banks, murder, immigration, drug use, etc - legal is legal - and illegal is illegal. Period!

No (reasonable) person has a problem with immigration. As the article states...we are a nation of immigrants. However, we are a country of LEGAL immigrants!

Dave Barrett said...

First, how do you know that your ancestors were legal rather than illegal immigrants?
Second, why is it obvious that immigration that is illegal is not to be tolerated but driving that is illegally exceeding the speed limit does not seem to bother anyone. Someone who truely opposed illegality per se would be kept so busy fuming and ranting about all the illegal speeders on our roads that they would have little time to worry about the comparitively small number of illegal immigrants.
I was reading the Davenport Iowa newspaper this morning. Davenport recently installed cameras which take pictures of cars going more than 10 miles an hour over the speed limit (and other infractions such as running red lights) and drivers are now receiving speeding tickets in the mail (mailed from Providence RI for some reason). You should hear the howls of protest from people who are suddenly being ticketed for something they have doing for a long time - exceeding the speed limit. They are threatening to boycott Davenport merchants until the situation is returned to one where they can once again speed without penality.
If you really opposed illegality itself this situation should send you right up the wall. These people are exceeding the speed limit and berate the city when they are called on it!
What part of ILLEGAL do these people not understand?!?

Anonymous said...

Dave, so you are saying - "to hell with all laws if we are not going to enforce every law to the N-th degree?"?

Come on, you cannot agree that someone who comes into our country, illegally, takes a job that otherwise would go to a 'legal' American, may, or may not accept taxpayer funded benefits, may, or may not, pay taxes - that this is ok?

You think that we should have an open border with no say as to who enters our Country?

You think that we should have an open border and allow anyone to come into our country and get on the taxpayer welfare system?

Please explain how you can have it all - open borders and economic control that any reasonable person/ any reasonable taxpayer would expect?

Dave Barrett said...

anonymous,
Oh, good. We are getting past the it is illegal nothing more needs to be said nonsense.
Illegal immigrants pay just as much in taxes as citizens. They have income taxes withheld from their pay and pay sales tax and property tax just like everyone else. (Day laborers who are paid in cash may avoid income taxes but that is just of true of citizens as illegal immigrants.)
Uneducated illegal immigrants who do not speak English are not taking anyone's job. The jobs they are getting would take you first in an instant if you showed up ready to work. The open question is whether if they were not here would employers have to raise the wages offered for those jobs in order to fill them. If may be that if employers could not fill the jobs without raising the offered wage some or most of the jobs would be automated or shipped the overseas.
If we really wanted to end illegal immigration we could do it pretty quickly and inexpensively by throwing a few ceos of companies who hire illegal immigrants in prison. Also imprison a few farmers and housewives who have hired illegal immigrants and the illegal immigration would stop pretty quickly. Of course, that is not going to happen.
Even if we stopped new illegal immigrants from coming in we have to decide what to do with the 10 million or so already in this country. We cannot round up and deport that many people and it would be against our democratic principles to have a permanent underclass of people who do not have the same rights as everyone else.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to trump the "Illegal" and depressing wages argument Dave.

I find your counter-arguments, while valid to various degress, to be fairly weak and unconvincing.

I know my ancestors were legal immigrants, but that's beside the point. Even if they weren't, they're long dead now, and the situation in the country was such that immigrants were, though not routinely by any means, welcomed. The country was largely unsettled and there was plenty of opportunity for all.

Even you must admit that the situation in this country is vastly changed from the mid to late 1800's

I'd also hazard to say that the rate of influx from Mexico and other Latin and South American countries literally dwarfs the numbers who immigrated from western and eastern europe during the immigration waves of the past.

To continue to stick your head in the sand and see no evil in this is difficult to justify.

While there is definitely some who object to immigration on racist grounds, and some of the anti-immigration arguments are phoney or at best not accurate, the fact remains that the idea that America should not have to simply have wide open and unregulated immigration, while offering many of the benefits of both our economy as well as our social safety net to anyone who wanders across the border is a bit naive and irresponsible in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Dave, (this is the original anonymous)...the question still remains,

What part of ILLEGAL don't you get?

Yes, corporate America needs not hire them, however, with forgery and all, they might truely know the legal status of, at best, 50% of the employees - through no fault of their own (as a fraud is being perpetrated against them).

You can try to sugar-coat the issue as much as you want, but either we are a country of laws, or we are not. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, both from an economic and a national security point-of-view.

If you cannot even admit that illegal immigration needs to be addressed and the place to adress it is with the party performing the illegal act, then your credibility has got to be seriously questioned.

havinfun said...

Dave, your thoughts are so very disapponting. I believe that we can all respectfully disagree on what needs to be done on the immigration issue and the need for reform in our policies.

I believe that we can all respectfully disagree on what to do with those in the US illegally, however, you seem to have an issue with holding someone personally responsible for their own illegal behavior and actions.

The primary concern for this country, in my opinion, is that we are losing the accountability for personal responsibility. It is quite destressing that you do not see this.

If you cannot see this, I must reconsider ever looking at your blog, as your perspective, in my eyes, becomes quite fruitless.

Dave Barrett said...

Original anonymous, if it is illegality that is your concern then I don't see why you are spending any time worrying about the measly 10 or 12 million illegal immigrants when there have got to be at least 100 million illegal speeders on our highways. The sheer illegality of it must just overwhelm someone of your sensibilities. What part of ILLEGAL don't these speeders understand?

Dave Barrett said...

havinfun,
Oh my goodness! My ideas are so upsetting that you are going to have to stop reading my blog! Well that's OK. We will get along somehow.

Oh by the way, I am very much in favor of personal responsibility. I take responsibility for everything I say and do. That is why I sign my name to everything I write.

You seem to be talking about some other kind of personal responsibility, though. One that does not involve signing your name to your opinions, for one. You also seem to think I am not concerned enough with making sure other people are punished for their transgressions or something. I plead guilty. I leave punishing other people's sins up to God and enforcing immigration laws up to the INS and the border patrol.

Anonymous said...

The legal vs illegal debate, as I tried rather unsuccessfully to show in my article, is a smoke screen. The anonymous writer wrongly states that immigrants were legal and welcome in the 1800s. A majority of Americans back then opposed further immigration and attempted to construct legal barriers to keep from others what their own immigrant ancestors enjoyed. Blocking immigration was just as unsuccessful then as it is now. The ancestors of Anonymous entered this country and became citizens despite the attempts to legally block them.

The point that Anonymous most misses is that his/her ancestors are NOT DIFFERENT from today's immigrants. Anonymous mirrors the same rejection that earlier Americans directed toward his/her ancestors. Anonymous should read history and discover that very very similar arguements have been used against immigrants of each generation. Fearful people have always claimed that their own immigrant ancestors were good and needed but current immigrants are not, that his/her family is different (more worthy) than today's immigrants.

History shows that America has opposed but benefitted from, all waves of immigration. No one group of immigrates were any more needed or more worthy. All immigrants were hated by many.

The truth is, we are all one.

Daniel Barrett

Anonymous said...

So your position is - "let everyone in, give them all benefits, in-state tuition, open citizenship?"

I expect that to pay for this, you'll just suggest that 'the rich should pay their fair share?'

Dave Barrett said...

"... who is going to pay for this?"
And yet you do not ask who is going to pay for increased security on the border. Who is going to pay for these fences they are going to erect? Who is paying for stationing the National Guard on the border? I saw Rep. Tomcredo on the news saying that we should spend BILLIONS of dollars constructing a 2000 mile long fence. Why aren't you asking him who is going to pay for that?
It would be much cheaper and much more effective to reduce illegal immigration by imposing penalities on companies and individuals who hire illegal immigrants.
What I am really opposed to is demonizing people. The point I (and my brother Daniel) want to make is that the current wave of immigration and immigrants are not different than our ancestors.
Read a little history. Read about opposition to immigration in the 19th Century when many of your and my ancestors came. They were saying the same things about your ancestors as is now being said about the today's immigrants.