Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Are we a nation of immigrants?

The fact I raise the question whether or not we are a nation founded on immigrants has caught your attention.  The answer is "yes" and "no."
Just take a long look at the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor near the adjoining landmark Ellis Island, and you know this country is a nation of immigrants.  Imagine the crowded immigrant ships sailing past the Green Lady in the harbor only increasing the hope of a new life in America for the people on board.  The ships were inhabited with German, English, Irish people in the first wave of immigrants from northern Europe.  Then the next wave came from southern and eastern Europe - Italians, Greeks, Russians and Jewish people.

Listen to these figures from David Sean Paludeine, editor of Land of the Free:  Ninety-five percent of U.S. citizens today come from people who didn't live in the Western hemisphere in the 18th century.  In addition, ten percent of today's American citizens are not born in the U.S. Now, I admit Paludeine wrote his book over ten years ago. However, with the continual influx of both legal and illegal immigrants, the stats have only increased.

Whether you like it or not, immigration over the past century has been one of the greatest factors contributing to the makeup of the American identity or nationality today, better labeled as the "melting pot."

I've been asking people where their ancestors came from?  Their faces light up as they tell me about their grandparents arriving on vessels from Ireland, England, Spain, Italy and on and on.

To most of you this information is nothing new.  If you're Jewish, like myself, you've been told stories of how your grandparents landed on Ellis Island and entered the U.S. through this well-known entry port.  They came here with legal papers, with promised jobs, with the intent to become naturalized citizens, to contribute to the economy of the U.S., to learn English and to become an American first and foremost.

In contrast, a few months ago a young Hispanic man proudly told me we are a "nation of immigrants" from his viewpoint.  His parents are illegal and he claimed his people have a right to immigrate here like other people have in the past.

I immediately familiarized him with the history of immigration in this country and made it clear that his people are not immigrants but illegal immigrants.  They are climbing over border fences sneaking into the U.S. They are not arriving through the front door of this country like the majority of immigrants but slipping through the backdoor.

Many of these Latino immigrants are bringing illegal drugs into this country and contributing to the destruction of today's youth.  For the most part they have little desire to speak English and it appears American culture is stupidly adapting all its documentation, signage, instructions and reading material to accommodate the Hispanic culture.

I entered a Chase bank branch today and was greeted with an advertisement, "Bank Statements Now in Spanish."  I can't imagine my grandparents asking for their bank statements to be printed in Yiddish.  They came here to America and proudly learned the English language.

Europeans came to the U.S. - post-Revolutionary war -  in search of religious freedom, for economic opportunity and the promise of land as the western United States became opened for settlement.

In the nineteenth century immigrants also came from Europe to flee hardships,  The Irish people left their homeland in the 1840s due to the Potato Famine; Germans and Italians also sought asylum in the New World because of political upheaval in their homelands.  The Chinese came to the U.S. in the 1860s and most of them landed on the West Coast and greatly contributed to the building of the railroad that reaches across the U.S.

I have more stats to share in another blog.  I merely want you to get a better grasp of immigration when the phrase is used, "We are a nation of immigrants."  In response, I would say, "we are a nation of legal immigrants who became former immigrants."

When our ancestors came to the U.S. they had to deal with immigration laws and quotas.  There were certain requirements that had to be met. They came to the U.S. as respectful people who had great admiration for the laws of the New World. They did not come here with the intent to flaunt the U.S. Constitution as is taking place today.  The rule of law regarding immigration is being ignored. Our politicians are to blame.

The state of Arizona which has courageously passed stringent immigration laws to stem the tide of illegal immigration in their state is actually trying to being their state into conformity with federal immigration laws that have already been passed and signed into law by past presidents of the United States of America. Can we condemn them for that?

Remember this one statement from today's blog: We are a nation of former immigrants . . . not illegal immigrants.

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