Nation of Immigrants

One of the main problems I have with Donald Trump is that he either does not know what the United States stands for and represents, or he does, and just does not care how that fits in with his own personal ambitions. Either way, the immigration bill he publicly put his support behind yesterday is an absolute embarrassment to America and our values. 

By supporting a bill that reforms our immigration system into a point based system that heavily favors admission for highly skilled and English speaking workers, while also cutting in half the amount of legal immigrants admitted over 10 years, he is directly contradicting American values and disregarding our history. I do not care what kind of system Canada or Australia have, as some have noted, they are not the United States and they do not share our history. That is not to say their system is wrong, or worse, but it is fundamentally different and defined by their own histories which are distinct from our own.

Look at the history of the American people and you will find that we are and always have been a nation of immigrants. More than any other nation we are defined and enriched by the diversity of our people, not diminished or divided because of it. Outside of Native Americans, every United States citizen today, including Donald, can trace their heritage back to someone who immigrated to this country at some point in time from some place other than these United States. 

Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. The sum of our disparate origins is far greater than any singular identity we carry. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.

Those who came before did not set out for our shores with anything more than hope for a better life and the belief that if they did the right things, were willing to work hard and make sacrifices, that they would be granted the opportunity to obtain that life they sought. They arrived not seeking a hand out, but instead a hand up, not to be given everything they desired but the fair share they were willing to work for. 

They looked across the ocean, or over the border, and saw a shining light upon a hill, a beacon of liberty and justice, equality and self-determination, evaluated what lives they led, and decided to pursue their own American dreams. Never before have the dreams immigrants opted to chase here in America required them to be highly educated, nor did those dreams cause them to be discriminated against if their English was broken, or even non-existant. 

Their pursuit required nothing more than good will, an honest desire to contribute to a nation and dream much larger than their individual origins and interests. Their entrance to the United States did not require that they be the perfect citizen upon arrival, but that they always strive for something more, something better, that they contribute in their own small, but not insignificant, way to perfecting this union. It did not predicate the likelihood of the admission upon their country of origin or on their religious beliefs, nor upon their linguistic or intellectual capabilities.

We must not forget that disparaging stereotypes such as dangerous or criminal, lazy or unqualified, that are so commonly unfairly bestowed upon Muslims and Hispanics today were once used to describe Italians and Irishman, Jews and Poles, and other immigrants of all different origins. We must be reminded that our history has not always been perfect, for if we fail to forget the missteps of our past we are sure to repeat them in the future. 

We are weakened when fail to read our history, when we turn our backs on the facts of our past, when we refuse to study the roots of our origins, and fail to acknowledge the errors of our ancestors. In the wake of Donald’s statements yesterday and his support for this bill, it is important that we recall that on our Statue of Liberty there reads a poem that says,

 “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

For nowhere in those words, nor in our history, does it say someone must be well-educated or speak English, to pursue their own American dreams, nor should it ever in our future be a requirement either.

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