[Immigrantrightsnynj] Immigration...Here for a better life
Immigrant Rights NYNJ
immigrantrightsnynj at list.afsc.org
Thu Sep 11 17:08:10 EDT 2008
Immigration...Here for a better life. by Bill Braunschweiger
Tuesday September 09, 2008, 9:04 AM
I recently made a purchase on EBay of an old Porcelain sign from the early 1900's. The sign was from The German Mutual Insurance Company of Newark NJ. I was also involved in a discussion group talking about the Hispanic immigrant population in Morristown. It got me to start thinking of the differences and similarities between them and my family who came to America in the late 1920's.
My relatives came here because of the bleak economic conditions that existed in Germany in the aftermath of WWI. There were few jobs to be had, and most paid very little. Food was scarce, and even shelter was hard to come by with many families living together, as is true now with the Hispanic migration.
My relatives came here without going through Ellis Island as they had other relatives already here willing to sponsor them and be responsible for them. Many of today's Hispanics come to relatives or people they know who are willing to give them a foothold.
My relatives settled in the lower income areas of Newark and the surrounding towns which had a large German population which made them feel comfortable. There were German Butcher's, Tailors, Food Stores, Repair shops, and even Insurance companies. They could go about their daily routines without any need to speak English. This is true today in the Hispanic community.
My family helped start a German sport club in the 1930's which still exists today, but over the course of the last 75 years it's no longer 100% German, and in actuality is most likely less than 50% German today. Marriage between different nationalities in the USA has a way of diluting the bloodlines. Today's Hispanics have their own sport clubs and can be seen playing soccer on Sunday's in many communities.
My Grandparents spoke German around the house with their children (my parents) who were born in the USA. We lived in a 2-family house with my grandparents when I was a child in the 50's and 60's and it was basically a bi-lingual home. We spoke German with our grandparents and English with our parents. My parents were already the first generation born in the USA, but they spoke German at home while growing up in the 30's and 40's. The same holds true with today's immigrants.
* My relatives came here through all the proper legal channels, while the large majority of today's Central and South American's did not.
* My relatives were white Europeans and tended to blend in with almost all of the existing population while today's Hispanics are more noticeable.
* My relatives had at least the equivalent of a high school education while many of today's Hispanic immigrants have had very little formal education.
* My relatives came from a modern industrial country while today's Hispanic's mostly come from rural third world environments.
What does all this mean? It means today's immigrants aren't that different than my grandparents, especially if you do not consider the color of the skin and the literacy rate. People still come to America for the same reasons. America was then, and still is the land of opportunity. This is the land where all men are supposed to be equal, where anyone with a solid work ethic can prosper (those of us who are fortunate enough to have families here for generations might have a different definition of "prosper"). After all to us the thought of a job paying $10 per hour means you're still in school or you're biding your time until you find a better job. To a Central American immigrant $10 an hour is a windfall. Heck, there aren't any jobs in their native country for $10 per day, let alone an hour. No wonder they're willing to work so hard for so little money.
We're all spoiled by the prosperity provided to us by our immigrant ancestors. Our perspective is skewed. Would you still complain about illegal immigrants if it turned out your own ancestors had been illegal? I'm not saying we should just open up our borders to anyone who wants to come because that would create chaos. A hundred years ago the difficulty of long distance travel alone kept people from immigrating. Today relatively cheap, quick and safe travel is available to most of the world's population. These immigrants come here and work hard manual labor, low paying jobs, and they do it with a smile on their face. They are transforming many of our blighted and neglected neighborhoods back into stable working class communities.
So, what do we do? I don't have the answer, but it doesn't seem human or American to say lets pack them all onto boats and send them home. After all there are plenty of legal residents here that I'd love to send away, but I don't get to pick and chose. I think only the extremists believe in mass deportation. The only solution I can think of, that I believe would benefit all of us, would be to at least document the undocumented. Set up a "worker" status of some sort that allows a person to stay as long as they have a 'job sponsor' and abide by our laws. That would include paying taxes and living in legal residences. I prefer to live around hard working, law abiding people no matter the color of their skin or country of origin. As I mentioned, there are plenty of legal residents I'd prefer not to live around.
Of course, there will be plenty of people who will read this and say that by virtue of the Hispanics being here illegally, they have already broken the law. I can't argue with fact. On the other hand is it a deportable offense? I don't necessarily mean in the literal legal sense, but more a moral sense. Should someone who's here illegally for 10 years, but has a wife and kids, a legal tax paying job, and has not broken any other laws be deported? Or, should they be allowed a worker status document of some kind?
I know what my answer is. I've seen a few anti-immigrant rallies. My first thought is, I think we should be ridding ourselves of the right wing extremists. They are much scarier to me than immigrants. They usually remind me of the crowds seen in Civil Rights documentaries filmed in the South in the 50's and 60's. I'd trade a white supremacist any day for hard working Mexican... Lets see David Duke (former Grand Wizard of the KKK), or Jose who mows my neighbors lawn? No contest, I'll take Jose anytime, no matter that the written law says.
The moral and humane laws of reason should prevail. Just because there were written laws that said blacks couldn't go to school with whites, or sit at the same lunch counter, or even use the same bathroom doesn't mean it was right. I have the greatest respect for the people who had the guts to stand up for their "human" rights. They are true Americans, just as I believe many of today's immigrants are.
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