In the arguments on the question of what our national policy on immigration should be, we are frequently reminded by members of both parties that we are a “nation of immigrants.” Those immigrants came here seeking freedom of religion, escape from oppressive governments, and economic opportunity, pretty similar to the motivation of today’s would-be immigrants.
It is deemed noble to take the position of exalted moral superiority based on that concept, and the construct that immigration has done nothing but benefit this country greatly. It’s also designed to imply that because unrestricted immigration worked out well in the past that it always will — but then, that would depend on who you talk to.
When the first brave immigrants crossed the Atlantic, they were unprepared for life in an unfamiliar land. Many of the original Native Americans were skeptical of these new people, but others were intrigued by them and welcomed those immigrants, teaching them how to grow crops, forage, and survive in the New World. It’s possible those early immigrants would have never established a toehold in this new land without their help. As they became established, those immigrants repaid that kindness by killing their benefactors, changing the culture of the survivors and confiscating their land.
As more immigrants arrived and settled all of the confiscated land, they brought human beings here from Africa under the most horrible conditions to work as slaves. Those unwilling immigrants had their children sold; they were beaten, whipped and sometimes hanged for the smallest infractions. Even after slavery was abolished, those unwilling immigrants were discriminated against by future waves of immigrants that arrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
I don’t believe in generational or national guilt, and history is simply history, but I also don’t believe in the glorification of the past to further a political end. I’m an extremely proud American and despite this country’s miscues, I think we’ve done more to help disadvantaged people worldwide than all other countries combined, and at a huge cost of both blood and treasure.
Human beings are a mixed bag covering the spectrum of behavior from the very best to the very worst, and all populations contain a full complement of all types. There were many immigrants who we can admire and many who were less than admirable, but they were no different than any group of people, including those who want to be the latest immigrants. Despite being described as a “nation of immigrants,” we are actually a nation of people whose ancestors were immigrants. All of us who were subsequently born here are now the new native Americans with a love for a country and culture that is all we’ve ever known, and whether that sounds palatable or not, that’s what we are.
As countries mature, their needs evolve, and we shouldn’t be held hostage to historical references. At one time it was considered OK to kill Native Americans and enslave others, but it’s not now. At one time it was also OK for immigrants to come here unrestricted, but that doesn’t mean it is now. That’s a question that I would prefer determined by economic considerations rather than political ones, but that would require common sense.
I’m just guessing, but I think that if the original Native Americans could rewrite history, they would have chosen to put up their own barriers 500+ years ago to protect their land and their culture. It’s too late for them, but it doesn’t have to be for today’s native Americans to do so.
Jimmy Wike lives in Mesquite.
Read or Share this story: https://www.thespectrum.com/story/opinion/2018/11/27/unrestricted-immigration-no-longer-acceptable/2063440002/
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