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
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