We Are All Immigrants

Published: November 5, 2018

By Jim Lichtman
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Cartoon by Friedrich Graetz, published in Puck in 1882. (Library of Congress)

In the run-up to the midterms on Tuesday, President Trump has been hitting the campaign trail, hitting Democrats, and anyone else in his way, about the dangers from a group of Central American migrants working their way up to the U.S. border.

With Fox & Friends egging him on, Trump said, “Anybody throwing stones, rocks, like they did to the Mexican military where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico, we will consider that a firearm.”

In his most erudite manner, Trump added: “I hope not. It’s the military. I hope not there won’t be that.”

Saturday Night Live offered its own take on the “truth” according to FOX by way of a satire of Laura Ingraham, featuring Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong as Judge Jeanine Pirro; priceless.

Humor aside, when it comes to immigration, the United States has always had a long, ugly history.

A potato blight in the 1800s forced nearly 2 million Irish to immigrate to America only to face newspaper ads that sharply stated, “No Irish need apply.”

Speaking of the “yellow peril” in the 1860s, journalist Horace Greeley wrote: “The Chinese are uncivilized, unclean, and filthy beyond all conception without any of the higher domestic or social relations…”

Those same immigrants constructed the first transcontinental railroad. Called “coolies,” about a thousand died in avalanches and accidents due to poor working conditions.

In 1882, Congress passed The Chinese Exclusion Act. The legislation not only prohibited Chinese immigration but made it illegal for Chinese immigrants to become naturalized citizens. The CEA remained in effect until World War II.

While The Naturalization Act of 1870 allowed African immigrants and descendants to become U.S. citizens, black soldiers in World War II fought in segregated units until President Harry Truman signed Executive Order Number 9981, fully integrating U.S. military forces.

Italians, Catholics, Germans, Mexicans – all faced similar hate and discrimination.

While the anti-immigrant sentiment is as old as the country, it’s important to know that a majority of these people help build the country.

CNN/Washington Post journalist Fareed Zakaria was blunt in his recent assessment of the Republican Party.

“…the problem is that Republicans are now becoming the party not of Trump but of Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator who in the 1950s accused the State Department of treason, called George Marshall — head of the Army during World War II, later secretary of state and defense — a traitor, and implied that the American government was being secretly run by the Kremlin.

“The Republican Party today,” Zakaria adds, “has become a vast repository of conspiracy theories, fake news, false accusations and paranoid fantasies.”

Sadly, history is repeating itself with Trump supporters, including evangelicals – a group well-acquainted with intolerance – siding with this current fever of fear.

There’s a case to be made for the immigration crisis we’re facing, but fear has no place in that argument. It’s neither a Democrat nor Republican issue. It’s a real issue that affects us all, and it will take real leadership to develop a thoughtful plan to deal with it.

America has made plenty of mistakes. But we learned, changed and grew stronger, because we are all immigrants. That’s what we need to remember during this current crisis. And one thing more…

Before we are Republicans, Democrats, black, white, brown, Christian, Jew, or Muslim, we are Americans. Let’s try to remember that, too.

Your vote counts, but only if you vote.


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