Except for First Nations’ people or indigenous people, ALL of the rest of us Americans are immigrants, including me. I am from English and French descendants. My mother’s side (French and English) arrived in colonial North America on the Mayflower, but so what!
“We all came on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
My point is that the USA is a nation of immigrants, so I refuse to vilify immigrants.
In my lifetime for nearly 8 years I was an immigrant living as a student in another country. It was a memorable experience in a beautiful country. However, even though I learned the language and spoke it fluently (it took about 2 years), I was always an outsider. At the time many of our friends were immigrants too, some of them from the former Czechoslovakia which became two countries in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Several of those friends were actually refugees because they were fleeing a 1968 upheaval in Czechoslovakia when Soviet troops invaded their country. Other friends were from Austria. Later on we had friends who were from the country where we lived. Some of those friends had family members who were both from that country where we lived and married to people who were also immigrants themselves. From this experience, I learned what it felt like to be an immigrant, the pressure of the challenges that I had to face to live in a different culture each day, and to not feel fully accepted by the people in that country.
When I taught English to immigrants as an English-as-a Second-Language teacher, my own experience helped me to feel compassion towards my students and their difficulties. As a language teacher, I knew how hard it was to learn a foreign language. As I learned while teaching, English is one of the most difficult languages to learn on the planet because of pronunciation problems and the number of words in English. For non-native speakers, it is even more difficult than it is for those of us who are born in the USA.
For those Americans who have lived several generations in the USA and are citizens, some of us have fallacies about what we know about new undocumented immigrants. Here is some debunking of those untruths:
1. Undocumented workers do in FACT pay TAXES, over $11.6 BILLION. Here’s a report.
2. Illegal immigrants make up only 5% of the the workforce for the USA. Thus, we cannot claim that illegal immigrants are “taking” all our jobs! This report is from 2015.
3. From “Forbes” magazine. Here is another article from the end of 2015 about how illegal immigrants help this country and DON’T take our JOBS.
4. Through American history immigrants have started some of the most important businesses in this country. This website names many of them.
USA’S HISTORY WITH IMMIGRANTS
WE Americans forced about 400,000 people from AFRICA to come to the USA
We forced them into slavery.
Many died during the crossing of the “Middle Passage”.
Slavery lasted nearly 400 (from the 1500s to 1865) years.
Africans and African Americans have NEVER been made
To feel welcomed by many Americans.
We brought Chinese workers to the USA to build railroads and mine gold in 1848.
From 1882 to 1943 America BANNED new Chinese people from immigrating
With the Chinese Exclusion Act.
They were never made to feel completely welcomed.
The Irish people came in 1848 after the potato famine
About 1 million Irish people had died of starvation in Ireland.
In 1848 WE put up signs where they landed in the USA,
That said about jobs: “Irish need not apply”.
Initially they were not welcomed.
The Italian people arrived in the USA beginning in late 1800s.
The greatest immigration was from 1900- 1924.
They faced great prejudice and name calling.
After 50% of the immigrant Italians earned money in the USA,
They returned to Italy.
That is how welcomed many Italians felt.
In the 1880s Americans allowed Japanese people to immigrate.
Workers were needed because in Pacific Northwest
Railroads needed to be built,
And we had already banned the Chinese, so….
During World War II, the Japanese living
On the West coast of the USA
Were put into internment or concentration camps
From 1942 to 1946.
Many of the young Japanese American men and women in those camps
Served in all branches of the service
As soldiers during World War II.
Today some Japanese people may still feel unwelcomed in the USA.
Latino people have always been in the USA.
They were the second people to inhabit the USA after the indigenous people.
They lived in states such as in California, Florida, and New Mexico.
They were in Texas and Arizona.
We people of the USA came later with bigger guns!
What do you think the Alamo was about?
Today many have vilified Latino people for coming here.
We have made SURE they do not feel welcomed
In the past and today.
I could go on. I’ve left out many groups of people,
Who will we unwelcome next?
Or we, as a people, could choose to actually embrace our role,
As a nation of immigrants,
And break the pattern of our xenophobic past.
Maybe then we can ACTUALLY begin to live as a nation
With liberty and justice for ALL.
I am an immigrant in the USA. That is something I try to remember when I see or meet a new immigrant. I have had the good fortune to teach immigrants, so I have little or no fear welcoming them to this my country. They may look different from me, have different customs, and accents. I had and still have an accent when I speak German and Spanish. In our country we have different accents in different regions. I make an effort to be more open hearted towards all people, and I know this is the right thing to do because I am a fellow human being with everyone in this country and on this planet. It is the hate and fear that separates us, love binds us together. All I can do is strive towards love.