Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Refrain

There is dignity in immigration.

When the Polynesians made it across the Pacific Ocean, there was dignity in immigration.

When Moses led the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, there was dignity in immigration.

When Oñate led Spaniards and Mexicans to the banks of the Rio Grande, there was dignity in immigration.

When the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, there was dignity in immigration.

When Huguenots, looking for another new home, joined Dutch settlers in New York, there was dignity in immigration.

There was dignity for African men and women when they were placed in slave ships.

When the Acadians traveled from the Atlantic Coast to their new home in Louisiana, there was dignity in immigration.

When the English courts mercifully sent thieves to America, rather than put them to death, there was dignity in immigration.

When Germans in the Bergisch Land and Moselle realized that their farms were unprofitable next to the growing industries, they sent out scouts to Missouri to find new Heimats; there was dignity in immigration.

When Slavic peasants, no longer needed by their Austrian lords because they converted their estates from feudal rents to beet sugar production, settled on the American frontier, there was dignity in immigration.

When Sonorans joined their American cousins in the mines of California and Arizona and on the railroads, there was dignity in immigration.

When Germans, losing the fight for a constitutional monarchy, left for Wisconsin, there was dignity in immigration.

When Italians uprooted themselves because they were terrorized by the landlords' militias, there was dignity in immigration.

When Ashkenazi Jews fled the pogroms in the Pale of Settlement, sometime with the help of the Rothschilds, and found themselves in New York's garment industries, there was dignity in immigration; they found the words of their distant cousins on the Statue of Liberty.

Puerto Ricans were citizens in 1917, but their passage to the mainland was still filled with dignity.

When Cubans floated ashore on makeshift rafts, they were picked up, clothed, and welcomed; there was dignity in immigration.

There was dignity escaping the killing fields of Laos.

When Central Americans cross dry deserts because they have become ‘surplus people' in an age of globalization, there is dignity in immigration.

On the other side about every patriotic song about America is a song about people who felt the times change around them; whose way of life was upended by modernization; whose freedom was threatened by nationalism and the quest for uniformity; who could not imagine how they could fight. Many arrived before there were any restrictions on immigration; many arrived before ‘documentation' was required. Some found that the nation was closed only to their kind, at times of greatest peril. Some were expelled or ‘repatriated' despite their citizenship.

Still, the movement of people was fundamental to the human condition. There is dignity in immigration.

2 Comments:

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Dan Rogers said...

This is one of the most eloquent and powerful things I've ever read concerning immigration. It would have the power to change many people's minds. I hope it gains the very wide readership it deserves.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger mercedo said...

I am in favour of your idea. Your statement is consistent and crystal-clear, I like it.

 

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