The following article was written and submitted by Cath Kestler, resident of Silver Creek, NY. Cath contributes to the Dunkirk Observer’s “Commentary” Column on a regular basis. This is her latest column.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these homeless, tempest-tost to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” –Emma Lazarus
What is known to us, the Statue of Liberty aka the “Mother of Exiles” is a symbol of immigration and opportunity that has graced our shores and her torch has been a beacon to all that seek refuge. We have always been a nation built by and for immigrants—a melting pot where all can be free to raise families without the stringent constraints placed upon them from the lands from which they fled.
Sure not all that have come here to seek refuge have had our best interests at heart; undesirables have slipped through the cracks, it is the problem that every continent endured throughout the ages. If it is a utopia you seek, then you will be discouraged for EVERYONE is in search of such a place. But my utopia may not be the utopia you are seeking—see where I’m going?
At one time or another we all were immigrants if you traced your origins back far enough and your ancestors were in search of something better for their families, it is an inherent trait in all of us; always searching for a greener pasture. You really can’t blame anyone.
Most people want or yearn for freedom, the kind of freedom that can be found in America, their utopia. Immigrants come here for a better life now, much like they did back then and we embraced them with open arms, welcoming them into the bosom of society. It is what we ‘advertised’ at Ellis Island and Liberty Island.
Immigrants are fleeing conflict, war, poverty and death—for the sanctity of their future generations. They bring with them ideas, hopes and dreams; let them built upon them. They open businesses, buy goods and services; attain higher education that might not have been afforded to them in the country they left behind. The businesses provide jobs, their purchases provide tax revenue and the educated provide us with technology and much needed medical expertise.
Also immigrants before they have fled their country provided our military with much needed information related to language barriers and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice for helping our soldiers protect our freedoms in exchange for a chance to experience the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. I think it’s a fair exchange and so do our military personnel.
Immigrants aren’t afraid of hard work; many perform the jobs that most Americans refuse—such as those in the agricultural arena, be thankful that they help farmers put affordable food on your table.
Are you aware that 4.2 million Hispanic owned businesses in this country collectively contribute over $668 billion to the American economy currently? Overall immigrant owned companies right now employ one out of ten Americans and contribute north of $800 billion to the US economy and some of the most iconic companies such as: AT&T, Bank of America, Google, Ebay, Goldman-Sachs, all the way up to Yahoo were all started by immigrants.
We owe all of this to immigrants. With what is going on in our country with immigrantsone has to question is the new Administration and the Republicans afraid of immigrants or are they simply worried that most immigrants vote Democrat?
I agree with the sentiment, but my own study of history – as well as family history – says that we welcomed immigrants in the past is a myth. Much of the time, the newest crop of immigrants was about as welcome as fleas on a dog, and a lot of laws passed in the late 19’th century and early 20’th were about limiting or forbidding various groups from coming here. If there’s one constant, it’s that after a generation or two, the groups that were unwelcome back then are now unwelcoming to the next group. They even recycle the same statements that were made about their ancestors for the new immigrants.
Thanks Cath, you really got me thinking.
So who are immigrants?
Most reasonable people know the bulk of labor, in agriculture, building structures (including most of the structures in DC, were built by slaves and immigrants. So yes the US welcomed them for what they could do for the US. However, the spirit of the Statue of Liberty must still be honored for future generations. The US still needs immigrants, not just for the menial labor tasks, nor skilled ones, but for the deliciously different cultures they bring with them. The US seems to be the one and only country that includes all world cultures together in any large numbers.
Framing the rejection of new immigrants by saying they steal American’s jobs, or are conversely lazy, and getting free goodies for just being here – and they are drug dealers, terrorists. In the present time, a majority of Americans have a sense that when the word immigrant is used, the people they are discussing are black or brown in skin color. Unfortunately as it has always been darker skinned people are least well regarded. However we never hear of all those detrimental excuses for preventing white from Europe, do we?
http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/european-immigrants-united-states#Distribution by European Region