What is the Problem with Immigrants
Recently there has been allot of ink spilled and screaming done about immigrants and the law and America. I have found some of the ironies of this debate so delicious that it has taken time to dissect them and then write about them.
Immigration into the United States was never a problem until the immigrants changed from Northern European Protestants to brown Catholics and Jews. No one complained about Swedes or Norwegians or even Northern Germans coming into the USA.
In the 1830's however two groups entered the US as immigrants that illicited vile and sometimes violent reactions. The first was the Southern German Catholics. Here in Chicago in 1846 the first Urban riots of the 19th century occured, the Lager Beer Riots where Protestant Chicago tried to end the German custom of attending Mass and then a beer Garten on Sundays. Germans especially German Catholics were outsiders and were not accepted as 'real' Americans.
I wonder what James Sensenbrenner's ancestors would think of his bill to make migrants felons?
At the same time Irish Catholics entered the USA. the Irish were hated for many of the same reasons as today's Mexican Immigrants, they worked very hard, they were Catholic and they did not assimilate. In the 1830-60 period the Irish did allot of Un American things like set up a parallel school system including their own Catholic colleges, this is where the "Fighting Irish of Notre Dame" had their origins. Like the Mexicans today they had Gaillic Media and they lived in mono ethnic ghettos.
Would Univision make people so uncomfortable if the news readers spoke with an Irish brogue?
What these old immigrant groups had in common was the fact that they were clannish, Catholic and they did not assimilate well. The religion part is often ignored today but American is founded on Anti Catholicism and much of the the anti immigrant furvor today is not just directed at the racial area which is strong but also the religious component. Recently a Washington Times columnist said "We dont Want to be the Most Northern Outpost of Latin America" when asked what she meant she said well Latin America is filled with a culture which is not ours and does not fit into Democratic values her basis for this was that Latin America is Catholic and speaks a Latin language. Millions of dollars are being spent by Evangelical churches to convert Latin Americans to Fundamentalism to make them more Americanlike this is not a coincidence Anti Catholicism in the US is as old as the republic.
The ironies continue.
From 1880-1920 20 million undesireable Europeans immigrated to the US. Among those 4 million Jews, 5 million Italians and many others. These immigrants too were viewed as alien because of their religion, Catholic or Jewish and their race. Contrary to today's categories Italians and Jews were not considered White in the 1920's. There are biology textbooks and papers written by eminent professors proclaiming that Jews and Italians are inferior and un American that we are not capable of being Democratic.
I look at my own experience; I am descended from a Knife Grinder and a Milkman who worked hard, went to Mass each Sunday and from their labors arose a Bank President, a VP of a Major Retailer, a Poet, and a Lawyer. The fact is that no one wanted us in 1920 and we forced America to want us and that is what the Immigrants from Latin America are doing today.
I am totally biased in regard to this issue; my wife is an immigrant from Brazil, my mother is also an immigrant as are all four of my Grandparents. I find it ironic that a man names Tom Tancredo (Father an immigrant from Sicily) is leading the charge against the immigrants but this is more of the same. America has always been intolerant of new groups and those groups have had to force themselves into our society and change it. Do I support the current situation, no- the fact is that when my wife immigrated to the US we had to live apart for 10 months before she could come here we followed the rules- but is it just to expell 20 million people whose only crime is wanting to eat?
I have lived in Latin America I challenge any American to go there and see the poverty of a Barrio or Favela and tell me that you would not try to better your lives? The problem is not with the immigrants the problem is with their nations of origin. This was the same in 1920 when the nations of origin were a corrupt Italy or a pogrom laden Russia and who got the better of the deal?
America got Joe DiMaggio. Frank Sinatra, Sam Goldwyn and Julius Rosenwald and what would the US be without Baseball, Music, Films and Sears?
So I say enough-
Congressman Sensenbrenner your ancestors came here when there were no controls on immigration and they were hated, Tom Tancredo you should be ashamed of yourself and I am sure that your brown skinned Sicilian ancestors are ashamed as well and for all those who are made uncomfortable by Spanish signs on stores remember Pizza, Frankfurter, Lox and Pierogi were strange once too and we got over it.