A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Immigration: Food for Thought

I tend to believe that the anti-immigration position that begins with "They're here illegally-- what part of illegal don't you/they get?" and ends with "They're here illegally, no amnesty, send them all home" is deeply in opposition to all America has always stood for. That does not mean that we should ignore the problem, nor that our immigration system does not need a MAJOR overhaul to limit, prevent would be nice but probably impossible, the huge flood of illegal immigration we are currently experiencing. But an important aspect of America's history has been, and always should be, that this is the land of opportunity, the land where you can start over, the land where hard work and dedication will get you ahead.

And I ran across the following quote tonight, and I felt a need to share, because the author phrases it all quite eloquently and concisely:
But the subject of deepest concern to him [Dr. Franz Huebschmann, one of Milwaukee's representatives at the Wisconsin constitutional convention in 1846] was to secure a constitutional provision enfranchising the immigrants without compelling them first to complete the process of naturalization. The argument Heubschmann employed was the social argument. He wanted to do away with distinction of rights between Americans and foreigners, in order thereby to remove barriers to their social cooperation. To this end he also urged provision for adequate public schools. 'Political equality and good schools,' he said, 'will make the people of Wisconsin an enlightened and happy people. They will make them one people.'
Of course, this isn't enough in and of itself-- there is a need for the new immigrants, and particularly their children, to become Americanized. We are, after all, the great melting pot, not the great bunch of little enclaves that don't really agree with or trust anybody else and want to remain separate from the rest. Which is good, since the latter phrase is way too long. So, American society does its best to eliminate ethnic, racial, and gender-based barriers, and the newly arrived immigrants, do their best to adapt to their new home. Thusly:
In fact, unusual success in any field opened wide the door of social opportunity to the family of the successful immigrant. His children would be sure to attend the American high school or college; they could, if they chose to do so, intermarry with American families, and fraternize on equal terms with Americans of the older lineage in church, in lodge, and in the home. Success, in short, wiped out invidous distinctions. It might leave to the foreign-born the full enjoyment of his peculiar racial tradition, its literature and its art. But these would be superadded to his appreciation and enjoyment of things American and his association with persons to whom such things were all in all.
It's an odd thing, but in our efforts to be inclusive and diverse-- to accept and even embrace other cultures-- Americans are losing their own culture. Our melting pot culture, wherein the cultural and ethnic quirks of all of our immigrants gradually seep into American society as part of the whole, rather than as distinct and readily identifiable as other, is being replaced with something that strikes me disturbingly as something along the lines of "separate but equal."

Separate but equal was a grand failure once before. Why should we think it will be anything but a grand failure this go 'round?

Oh, and for the record, both of those quotes are from a fascinating little book about the history of southeastern Wisconsin called _Four Wisconsin Counties: Prairie and Forest_ by Joseph Schafer. Also for the record, that book was published in 1927.
Aah, I see you've been trolling the bestseller lists again!

I'm right with your sentiment. It's hard for me to understand people who consider themselves patriotic and yet also staunchly anti-immigration. I mean, I do understand why they feel that way, I just don't see how anyone can feel that such attitudes can exhibit true patriotism.

On a sidenote, I dig the word "thusly". If it isn't a word, it should be. :)
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