December 3, 2007

The Immigration 'Crisis'

They came to this country because they were desperate. They came to escape impossible living conditions. They took the jobs no one else wanted.

They left everything they owned behind. They left their culture, their customs, their way of living—in order to cast themselves into a foreign culture they didn’t know or understand. They discovered that living conditions in the United States were often more difficult than had been the case at home. At least part of the reason for this was the loss of their extended families and supports they had left behind.

They arrived by the millions. They were met with derision and scorn. They were unwanted in this country. They were perceived as a threat by those already here. Many, many US citizens urged them to ‘go back where you came from.’ Often they thought about doing just that, but they remained, basically because they had nothing to go home to.

Earlier immigrants from their own country resented the recent arrivals. They did everything they could to demonstrate that they were different from the newcomers. In fact, when it came to urging them to go back home, their voices were often the loudest.

The US government passed laws designed to make it harder for them to remain in this country. The reason it did this was because of the perceived threat that the new immigrants would take over this country and reshape it in their own image. Our way of life was seen to be at risk.

This story is not that of the Mexicans. It’s of the Irish who arrived during the potato famine of the 19th century.
As late as 1960, one of the descendants of this population, while running for President, was met with hostility and fear. A question often asked in all seriousness was: in a contest between the Constitution and the Catholic Church which might John Kennedy follow? That question had never been asked of a Protestant candidate.

Of course, we will never know if his assassination was the cause, but the fact remains, today Kennedy is one of our most revered presidents.

Another fact is: although one of them did become president, the millions of Irish who arrived on our shores became Americans—they did not turn America into New Ireland.

Yet another fact: in the 1960's, when people from Viet Nam and Laos were arriving in large numbers, similar complaints and concerns were voiced. Look around--does this country look, culturally, like Viet Nam to you?
Think about these facts when dealing with the immigrants arriving today. And, please remember: they’re only people—trying to live as best they can—just like you and me.


Mary Ellen said...

Coming from a family of immigrants, Italian, I remember the stories I would hear as a child about how they were treated when they first came here. It's a difficult life, to learn our language and fit in with our lifestyle.

Great post, two crows. It would be nice if those in our country would remember how this country came to be...we were all immigrants, except for the native Indians who were here first...and look what we did to them!

two crows said...

hi, ME--
I wish people in this country would remember their own origins.
About 96% of us had better shut up -- or go back where WE came from.

LET'S TALK said...

it's just a little bit scary how mean Americans have become about immigrants.

Mary Ellen said...

I think most of the nastiness about immigrants are pointed at Mexicans, after that, Muslims. It's very sad and I agree with Let's Talk, it is getting scary.

two crows said...

hey, LT--
as this post points out-- the phenomenon isn't new, by any means.
the John Birch Society and the Daughters of the Revolution have been around a long time and both were founded specifically to keep outsiders out.

and, during WWII, laws were enacted to refuse entry to the people who were slated to be tortured and killed in Germany, Poland, Holland, France, Ukraine, etc. etc.
There's a fascinating book entitled, 'While Six Million Died' that tells the story from the pov of the European Jews.
but, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, gays, intellectuals, etc. were among those this country specifically targeted to keep out -- tho we welcomed the Nazis who knew something about science quickly enough AFTER the war.

and Mary Ellen could, I'm sure, give us the word from the Italian perspective.
I just chose the Irish because I saw a documentary on them recently and had some of the facts on hand.

this country that spouts words like, 'melting pot' has a long and ugly history when it comes to immigration.

two crows said...

hi, ME--
yes, it's scary. and it's certainly nothing new -- no matter how our politicians try to disguise the facts.

Mary Ellen said...

Hi two crows! I put up the post about the Live Blogging session at my blog for the NPR Democratic Debate tomorrow afternoon. Here's the post, let me know if I need to put anything else up there.

All of your bloggers are welcome to put in their two cents!

Oh...and don't forget to bring some snacks...and margarita's. ;-)

two crows said...

thanx for doing that. ME--
will see you there!