Summary: Immigrants don’t whine or make excuses or complain that America’s best days are behind her. They don’t play the victim, or sue because their kid didn’t get into an elite university, or demand that Uncle Sam institute tariffs on foreign steel and reopen the abandoned factory at the edge of town. They just work their fingers to the bone and take care of business.
IMMIGRATION IMPASSE: America is the land of immigrants, and yet Americans don’t like immigrants. We don’t just have a broken border and a broken system. We have a broken discourse. This series — written by the grandson of a Mexican immigrant who has covered the issue for 30 years — takes a clear, honest and unflinching look at why America’s grand promise to take in the “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” has been so difficult to keep.
SAN DIEGO — In America, the relationship between immigrants and the native-born is complicated. Sometimes, it’s also confusing.
One reason for the confusion is that the U.S. immigration debate is jam-packed with paradoxes, untruths and contradictions.
Perhaps the biggest paradox of all is the fact that a country that advertises itself to the world as the land of immigrants has never really cared much for actual immigrants, no matter why they come or where they come from. The Chinese were kept out in the 1880s. The Jews were turned away in the 1930s. The Hondurans were shut out in the 2010s. The actors change, but the script stays the same.
A whopper of an untruth is that Americans only have a problem with undocumented immigrants, and that we unequivocally welcome immigrants who go to the trouble of coming legally. Not so. Almost all immigration to the United States was legal until the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924. And yet, for two centuries before that, legal immigrants were still hassled by the native-born because of their language, religion or culture.
Recently, I got an up-close look at this major contradiction. While many Americans say they agree with the idea that legal immigrants are one of the best things about this country, some have second thoughts about that claim once they discover immigration runs counter to their nationalistic impulses.
After all, if immigrants are so great, what does that make the native-born? Answer: Not so great.
I’ll plead guilty. My immigrant grandfather Roman — who came from Chihuahua, Mexico, in the early 1900s during the Mexican Revolution — had a much stronger work ethic than I do, and not even a touch of the entitlement that plagues so many Americans today.
The comparison between immigrants and the native-born spilled out this week onto the airwaves of a radio show in Fresno, Calif. Host Ray Appleton is a White male Republican who has been a friend for nearly 30 years.