I am amazed at the number of emails and articles I read and heard about regarding the issue of allowing illegal Mexican immigrants to enter our country. Many are very hostile toward these people and just want them removed as soon as possible. Others, many their relatives and friends, are frantically trying to help them to stay. I also imagine hundreds of illegal employers don’t want them to leave either.
Actually, we are all immigrants to this country unless you are Native American. And even they migrated here from somewhere else. For that matter, we are all aliens to this world anyway, but that’s another blog. Yes, most of us are legal, but the manner in which our legality was established could be seen as appalling and tragic; broken treaties and promises, pogroms of genocide, and trails of tears. The Kevin Cosner narrated movie, “500 Nations” tells some of this tragic story. By today’s standards, several of the sainted missionaries then would now be considered terrorists. In reality, we all live on stolen properties.
Be that as it may, most of my ancestors migrated here by choice. Some came before the Revolutionary War, and some even fought in it. Others arrived in the late 1800’s. They were all Caucasians from a variety of European countries. I know all were also Protestant by faith. In many cases, they had relatives waiting for them. Some, however, as I was told, came here as an alternative to going to jail. I may have a strong dose of their genetic code. The point, they were among the popular majority in our early country’s establishment, white Protestant northern Europeans!
Others who came from Europe, especially of the Roman Catholic faith, and with darker skin, weren’t so welcomed. The Irish Catholics were an especially hated group of people, and the present day St. Patrick’s Day survives as a testimony to their courage and persistence.
Others who found a less than hospital welcome were our Asian brothers and sisters. Because of their skin color and physical features, and their “pagan faith,” they were hated and despised. When many Asians helped complete the Transamerica railroad, I was told once that many were killed when it was completed. There’s a cemetery of their remains in Nebraska. Laws were made over a hundred years ago to keep Asians from migrating to our country. They were known as the “Yellow Peril” laws. In 1965, they finally were ruled unconstitutional.
From 1910 to 1940, nearly one million Asians tried to migrant into American. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, many had to wait for years before being granted citizen. Many gave up and returned. They were made to wait their years of detainment in an Asian camp on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. It was nicknamed the “Ellis Island of the West.” In 1987, I studied the summer at San Francisco Seminary. My Japanese roommate, Sumio Koga, took me one Sunday afternoon to the Asian Immigrant Holding Area on Angel Island. He had had relatives there. It was horrible and depressing. Asians were crowded together in rooms with very few amenities and had to wait for years. After the war broke out, remaining ones were sent to “holding centers” where many died. My roommate could read some of the Japanese engravings left in the wooden walls, depicting cries of desperation and deep despair, many wishing to die.
For nearly the first 100 years of our country, another fifth of our country’s residents were not allowed to be citizens but rather, were forced immigrants into slavery and sold off like cattle and sheep. Families were broken up at random as young women and men were paraded on auction stands like animals. These were our African American ancestors who still in some places, struggle for equal treatment as citizens of our land. In order for these folks to gain citizenship as equals, the most bloody war ever fought by us occurred in our country, pitting north against south with many African slaves either forced into battle or lured in with promises of freedom. It was an awful and sad chapter in our immigrant history as a nation.
Approximately 12 million brothers and sisters from Mexico, without legal papers, we are told now inhabit our country. They work at sub minimum wages without benefits, helping to sustain their families back home. Most of them do work citizens would not want. Most of them do jobs dishonest employers want done because it saves them much money. The issue is, should we grant them amnesty and an opportunity to become full citizens of our country?
I answer with a resounding yes. We need hard working people in our country. At the present rate of retirement of the “Baby Boomers,” resources for pensions and social security will be strained. The Federal Government has spent millions of these set aside dollars to fight wars and other causes. By registering these immigrants, we can guarantee them safe and fair working wages and conditions for the legal taxation withdrawals for national and local taxes. Sociologists have been writing for several years of the need for a growing pool of young workers in our country, much as the need is evident in European countries. During the past several years, since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, doors have been closed down to most immigrants, just at the time when we need more workers and scientists to help us remain strong and free. I think of the 12 million Mexicans among as “walk-ins”. They are here willing to work and pay their fair share if but given the chance. They want their children to attend schools which makes it so much the better. They should. We have found that desperate, hard working, appreciative immigrants have historically made some of the best citizens in innovation and discovery.
How could this be done? Well, this is a job for the politicians but here’s a possible start; Simply check employers as to the proper registration and payroll taxes of all their employees. We don’t need to grab these people from streets, homes or cars to send them back; simply ask them where they work and find their employers who are breaking the laws. Meanwhile, let us keep the gates open to more whom we can train, give work and hire into places where innovation and development are needed the most. This situation is like a gift at our country’s door!
Remember, we are fast becoming an aged country. We all can’t live on pensions and social security without a strong, growing, upcoming base of young people. Welcome them to our country in ways scriptures taught Christians and Jews; with welcome arms remembering that we all once were aliens and outcasts in this world. So they aren’t our religion and ethnic heritage; in God, we are all one anyway. For those of us baptized, the formula given over us at baptism was one of the most beautiful affirmations ever heard; “In Christ, there is no Jew or Greek, rich or poor, free or slave, male or female but we are all one in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now is the time we can affirm that anew and practice it as a nation with those walk-ons we so desperately need. Now is the time to strengthen the richness of our country as a multicultural, multiracial, melting pot of a nation. It has made us great nation. It is the essence of e plubis unum! And be sure to vote for me for your next President!