Today’s is not your grandfather’s immigration
It is true that America is a nation of immigrants – and that has been our strength. Consequently, we are the most ethnically tolerant and welcoming nation in the world. But part of that truth is largely because most other nations are extremely intolerant and unwelcoming.
America’s open arms to people from other nations and other cultures was recognized early in the life of the Republic. By the time the United States was celebrating its 100th anniversary, the French – America’s longest allies – recognize America’s welcoming culture by gifting the nation with the Statue of Liberty as a monument to the nation’s open arms and open heart.
The story of migration to America is found in every chapter of our nation’s history. BUT …that does not mean that the assimilation of each new group was easy. When the Catholic Irish came to America to escape the potato famine on the Emerald Isle, they were greeted with White Anglo Saxon prejudice. Many from the old sod were greeted with “Irish need not apply” signs when seeking jobs. The most prestigious private clubs excluded Negros, Jews … and Catholics.
Chinese were more or less imported to work on the railroads and other construction projects but became best known as the iconic laundry operator. And even as they came to America, they were denied the rights of citizenship. As late as the 1930s, prejudice against Asians was rampant. President Franklin Roosevelt – a white supremacist – sent Japanese Americans to concentration camps and expressed his belief that “unions” between whites and Asians would result in “unfortunate” offspring.
Jews migrating to America were confined to Jewish ghettoes. In one of the most disgusting acts of prejudice, FDR – also an anti-Semite – forced a shipload of Jews escaping Nazi Germany to be turned away and returned to the horrors of Hitler.
Negroes were never a migrant class because their ancestors were brought to the New World forcibly long before there was an America, and were the subjects of the worst from of prejudice … slavery and racial segregation.
There was a bit of a Polish migration, creating the iconic image of the Polish cleaning lady. A surge of Pilipino migrants filled many of the nursing jobs. The iconic image of Italians and Greeks were as restaurant owners. The later migration of Vietnamese opened nails shops.
When first arriving in America, migrant groups most often assembled in “their own neighbors.” It was largely due to the desire to live among folks with common language, food and religion. It was also necessitated by the greater culture that kept them isolated so that “unwashed” newcomers would not marry their daughters.
This clustering of immigrants gave Chicago the reputation as a “city of neighborhoods” that were based on ethnicity. That is also true of most other American urban giants. And much of that exists today – imposed by racist policies imposed by urban political machines.
But except for blacks, virtually every migrant population successfully assimilated into the American culture. They embraced what they saw as American exceptionalism – personal freedom and rugged individualism. They came to seek opportunity. Consequently, they believed that “living off the government” was an indication of failure – acceptable only in the most extreme cases. Welfare was the responsibility of family, religious institutions and private charities.
Because they were anxious to become productive Americans in every way, they had the zealous patriotism of a convert. They saluted the Star-Spangled Banner and stood reverently for the National Anthem.
The immigrants of the past were the ingredients in the American Melting Pot – adding elements to the American society even as they “melted’ into the greater culture. Food is one of the iconic gifts of immigrations. The popularity of Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern restaurants all sprang from immigration.
And, for the most part, those leaving their positive mark on America came here legally.
It was also a time that America had standards — and enforced laws covering immigration. Those wishing to become part of the American Dream were seriously vetted – whether they were part of a humanitarian-driven mass migration or an individual applicant.
America wanted immigrants, but only those who would be a positive contribution to the nation. When we reflect on the great accomplishment of immigrants that benefited America, those are the immigrants we talk about.
Those seeking asylum often had to have “sponsors” – family or friends – who would take care of the initial needs of the new arrival.
But that was then … not now.
When America lost control of its borders is difficult to pinpoint. But for most of the 21st Century, the entire concept of vetting migrants against positive standards has vanished. Open borders – yes, open borders — have completely dissembled any concept of immigration control and proper vetting.
One result has been the admission of thousands of undesirables – basically criminals whose sole purpose to come to America is to engage in criminal activities. And let me be clear, I am NOT referring to the hundreds of the millions who are currently living in America illegally. It is not a racist issue unless you consider the fact that the criminal elements are setting up operations – and committing their crimes – mostly in black and Hispanic communities. Some of that is reflected in the crime wave that is sweeping the major cities today.
Many … maybe too many … of today’s immigrants see American opportunity as instant welfare benefits. It is a matter of what they can get without consideration of what they can contribute. That does not make them bad people since they are rationally responding to America’s idiotic policies and lack of enforcement. The problem is in Washington – not in the states or even in those who take advantage of lax border enforcement and an array of freebies upon arrival.
There is also another difference between traditional immigration policies and enforcement and what we have today. Many migrants are not seeking to be part of the American culture but to bring their own tribalism into their new home. In many ways, they are responding to – and exacerbating – the growth of domestic tribalism in America. Unlike the melting pot assimilation, the authoritarian left sees the nation as a bucket of rocks never to meld – a white rock, black rock, brown rock, yellow rock and red rock.
Millions of blacks are kept segregated and impoverished. They have not been allowed to assimilate. Many Muslims insist that they be allowed to live under Sharia Law – in which women and homosexuals have no rights and in the extreme “honor killings” are acceptable.
The fracturing of the national common ground based on common beliefs is evident in the disrespect for the flag, the National Anthem and the Founders of the American Republic – not necessarily by the migrants but by the America-hating globalist radical left. For the left, American unity is to be displaced by the manipulation of ethnic interest groups with no overarching common bond.
Martin Luther King had a dream of a nation where the color of the skin was less important than the content of character. Today, the color of the skin is the dominant issue in establishing and implementing policies – even to the point of adjudicating alleged crimes in courts-of-law.
That degeneration of American democracy and common culture is exactly what is fueling the influx of millions of folks who are not even asked to be dedicated to America’s constitutional values of personal freedom, free enterprise and limited government.
Like a serious disease, there is no quick return to the healthy common ground of American Exceptionalism. The full recovery will take years – maybe decades. But a good start would be to re-establish the process and standards by which America allows folks from around the world to be part of a unifying American Dream.
Our dedication to the words inscribed on the tablet held by Lady Liberty – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” – should never be compromised. But the privilege of admission to America and to citizenship should be America’s decision. Not the result the destructive policies of authoritarian political opportunists.
So, there ‘tis.