Imagine if the English in the 1600's and 1700's said, "Winthrop... there is this great land across the sea that holds opportunity for us all. Lets pack up our things and move there."
"Na," replies Winthrop, "there are already Indians living there. It wouldn't be fair for us to move there and take their deer and land. Lets just stay here instead and drink our earl grey tea."
Imagine if the Irish of the 1800's said, "O'Reilly, we are starving to death from the potato famine. There is this land across the sea where we can start a new and make a better life for out children."
"Na," O'Reilly replies, "the English are already there. It would be unfair for us to move there and take their jobs. Lets just stay here and eat mud."
What if the Germans and Italians did the same. This is a nation of immigrants and every immigrant group came here and took jobs from those already here. But, we grew stronger with each group.
Those who oppose immigration now say, "but the Latinos are different than us and they don't intergrate into our communities. Worst of all, they don't speak our language."
The same thing has been said about every group that have immigrated to our country. For the Germans, most of their community schools were bi-lingual until World War I. The first German language newspaper started in 1732. By 1860, there were over 1.3 million German born immigrants in the United Sates, with seven German language newspapers in St. Louis alone. By 1894, there were over 800 German language journals in the U.S. The anti-German sentiment in the U.S. was also at its peak. It was said that they will never integrate into the "American way of life."
With all of the anit-German sentiment in the U.S. did the Germans capitulate and adopt all of the native customs? No. Instead they created social groups to build understanding between the cultures.
“the case for our German culture will be better served if we attract Americans to our side. On the gymnastics field, we can acquaint them with our German customs and traditions and of course, also with our language more successfully than if we hold them at bay because of our nationalistic tendency to live in our own enclaves.” Der Vorbote, July 7, 1886.
This obscene reluctance to void themselves of native customs forced horrible things on the U.S. such as the Christmas Tree and the Easter Bunny. It took over 100 years for the German immigrant population to fully become part of Americana.
The same happened with the Italians. They were thought to be dirty and uneducated. They were blamed for taking American jobs and dragging the entire country down. One native claimed in a 1891 cartoon that “If immigration was properly restricted, you would never be troubled with anarchism, socialism, the Mafia and such kindred evils!” The Klu Klux Klan became an active organization against Italian immigrants. In 1890, there were 20 lynching of Italians alone, and Catholic churches were vandalized. The largest mass lynching in U.S. history was of Italians in New Orleans in 1891. The mass media was generally approving of the actions.
The Irish came to the U.S. and were forced to work the jobs that even slaves were not allowed to work because a slave was more valuable that an Irish man. By 1855, nearly a third of Boston's population were Irish born immigrants. The anti-Irish sentiment was so strong that a national party, the "Know Nothings," was formed to stop the flow of Irish immigrants. Their claim was that “Americans must rule America.” Once elected, the Know Nothings passed laws aimed specifically at Irish immigrants. They passed laws making the King James Bible (protestant version) compulsory and taking away arms from the Irish in violation of their 1st and 2nd amendment rights. In the south, the Irish were compared to slaves and were referred to as “niggers turned inside out," and black slaves were called "smoked Irish."
Every immigrant group has been considered to be a direct threat to the welfare of the United States. Every immigrant groups was said to be insular and unwilling to integrate into the native culture. But, in the end, every immigrant group has made the United States a better place. Every immigrant group has added a new fiber to the fabric of our nation. Were would we be without those O'Sullivans and Cervinos, the Schmidts and the Chans. What if the anti-immigration voices in the 1800's had been sucessful in blocking the flow of Italians, Jews, Irish, Germans, and Chinese. Adding the Sanchezs to the list will make this a better place, not worse. Those who come to the U.S. desire to live the American dream, not subvert it. They come for the same dreams that brought our grandparents and great grandparents. There was room for our ancestors in this country and there is room for more. Latinos will integrate in time, just as the Italians, the Irish, and the Germans did. They will, and already have, made great contributions to our economy and society. The current waive of Latino immigration means that we are doing something right here. The only way that we will ever really stop immigration is if we throw our economy and freedoms down the toilet. I would prefer to keep those, and welcome some new neighbors.