#118. Follow-up to Immigration History Repeats Itself

Posted on | The Agurban
Last week’s Agurban, “Immigration History Repeats Itself”, generated far more emails than any other issue that we’ve ever covered. I am devoting this week’s Agurban to some of the many comments that we received, hoping that this will help add to the healthy debate on the issue.

First though, I want to share with you my own background, in coming from immigrant stock. My great grandparents immigrated from Germany in the 1800s, settling in Teutopolis, IL, a small farming community. The town was still 99% German ancestry, even when I was growing up there in the 50s and 60s. For the first 80 or so years of the town’s existence teaching at the school was conducted with half of the day in English and the other half in German. It was a tight knit and wonderful town to grow up in.

But, my ancestors had to fight the same prejudices that we wrote about last week. An example was of how the neighboring “English” (as they were called in my hometown) viewed the building of a new pipe organ at the only church in town. They were concerned that the “Heinies” were shipping in cannons and sent their local militia to investigate. The cannons turned out to be only pipes for the organ and order was restored to the area.

I’m convinced that those same misunderstandings exist today between people of different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. Learning how to bridge those divides can make all of our small towns better.

I lived for seven years in Brazil and saw the immigration issue from a different perspective than I did only with a USA centric one. I’ve met many people who have immigrated to the USA and also to other countries, including Brazil. They have added greatly to their new hometowns.

I continue to wonder at both the dreams of what lies ahead and the nightmares of what might lie behind that compels people like my ancestors and those of today to risk everything to make their quest for the Land of the Free.

While not condoning illegal immigration, I’m convinced that the towns that can embrace these new immigrants, most with strong family values and an entrepreneurial spirit, will be the better for it.

Here are comments that we received. First those opposed to our message of last week.

— Your comments in today’s commentary have forced me to take a stand. I share the great concern of the majority of Americans who are fed up with the free flow of ILLEGAL immigrants entering our country in vast numbers. The effect of these folks on our local, regional and national economy (good or bad) can be debated endlessly. However, no matter how you spin it, they are here illegally.

I have read commentaries like yours so often over the last couple of years and just can’t take it anymore. Because I am against illegal immigration does not make me a racist or a hate monger. I don’t hate these people. I would feel the same way if they were of my race and were immigrating illegally from western Europe (my ancestry). I am against illegal immigration, not legal immigration. We are a society that lives by law and order. Not enforcing the law as it relates to illegal immigration is simply wrong – regardless of their dire circumstances and poverty.

— In short allowing illegal immigration disrespects and tends to minimize the value of what it means to be a citizen. If you narrow the focus to what it means to the economy to have cheap labor that theory is correct and necessary but many feel you can have that and respect the law as well. I think your implication that hatred and bigotry is at the heart of opinion on illegal immigration ranks of a juvenile and oversimplified approach.

— I read your article on immigration, And I think you should do a little more research on the amount of $’s it is costing border towns who have to deal with the influx of drugs, trash, robberies, hospitalization, and not to speak of Killings that happen daily. Here in AZ. we have more than 1000 people coming in through our boarders. 1000 is just the number that is caught and returned, then they return again and again, mainly because it is a way feeding their family. 90% of the Mexicans who drive in border states, have not insurance or driver license, that is why all Legal People who own a car have to carry Uninsured Policy Motorist Insurance.

And, here were those with a different perspective on the issue, many with personal experiences today or from their ancestors.

— Amen to your last email! We have an apple orchard in ********** – we learned from the workers who had worked the orchard for six years previous to our purchase! If it hadn’t been for them, we would not have been as successful as we have been. They became friends, have moved on to more profitable jobs, are residents of (our state) and PAY THEIR TAXES!!!

There is a large scale vegetable grower 10 miles from us who has to go to Mexico each winter to make sure that his workers can return each year. Yes, they send money home with his help. Their children do attend our schools during their stay, but they pay taxes while they’re here. If it were not for the workers from Mexico; he would not be able to man/woman his business. We do not have enough (state residents) that would work as hard as these individuals do, plus they have knowledge of the planting and picking of this industry. US workers, a lot of them do not want to work as hard as these people do!!!! That’s the bottom line – many are too soft, or have not been given the work ethic of years gone by!

— Thank you for addressing racism from the context of history and what the contributions that our immigrant ancestors brought with them to a land they saw as a place for opportunity. You stepped outside of your role and shed a new light on what make our country great.

— Thank you for a voice of reason. The answer is complex, but simple: develop economic opportunities in Mexico. We pour billions into the Middle East and other areas. Open the borders and develop this untapped area. The ones who cry illegal aliens are 21st century racists. The arrogance of someone to think they are better than someone else or deserve more because they were born on the North side of the border is sickening.

— My grandfather, a Greek immigrant in 1900 at age 14, worked his way westward, served in the U.S. Army in WW I, then started a dry cleaning operation in ****** in 1918. The company ***** just celebrated its 89th birthday last month. He and his friend ***** who owned (a café) two doors down, were picketed by the Klu Klux Klan several times in their early days. Perseverance was key for them as it is, and was, for many.

— I was quite sure that this was a controversial article for you. My family also came to this great country as immigrants and intermarried with native Americans. I feel a very strong connection to the “new” immigrants that are here today. I am also a student of history and as I read your article I know how truthful you have been (and yes the truth hurts sometime) about how they were treated and used. But unfortunately we need their unquestioned labor to accept those jobs that some people feel they are too good to do. Just like the Irish and the Chinese accepted their chances for a better life so have the Vietnamese and Mexicans and many, many others. Education of this reality is the only thing that will change the way people believe and think.

— Balance is what is needed in helping our nation resolve this issue. That and clear minds of those who aren’t trying to seek election or reelection. This is a case where we should let business help drive the decisions, as our politicians are only going to mess it up. As for Lou Dobbs, his “Jim Crow” mentality and views are old and tired, and he clearly shows that racism is alive and well in the south. How sad to be him. He reminds me of Joe McCarthy.

Next week we will begin a three part series on “What Exactly is the New Economy?”