Blog / 2010 / More American than You

October 21, 2010

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of anti-immigration buzz and most notably in the form of a particular email forward. The message lists several countries and reveals the punishments that they impose on those who cross into their territories illegally.

The forward’s formula is this:

If you cross ______’s border illegally you get ______.

The first blank is a country’s name; the second is a description of some sort of long detainment or painful death.

The email ends with the following:

If you cross the US border illegally you get a job, a driver’s license, a social security card, welfare... [the list goes on]. I JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE I HAD A FIRM GRASP ON THE SITUATION!!! PLEASE KEEP THIS GOING. FORWARD TO ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS & FAMILY. IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP AMERICA!!!

Huh. So we want to be like the other countries listed in the email? Because they are some of the worst human rights violators—countries whose own people would very much like to cross their borders (in the leaving direction) but are denied permission to do so by their totalitarian governments.

a Bosnian-American man as a pilgrim, a fake green card
Gwenn Seemel
Ellis Island Pilgrim (Bosnian-American, Dino)
2008
acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 inches
(Part of Apple Pie, a series about the American identity.)

First and second generation Americans—immigrants and their children—are more American than those whose families have been in the United States for a few more generations.

If your family no longer has any real connection to its country of origin, you cannot know what it’s like to choose to be American instead of something else and, as a result, you do not remember what makes America great.

Anti-immigration is racism. If you want to stop the influx of people who are coming here with the goal of building a better life for themselves and their loved ones, I challenge you to take a look at why.

Are you worried that these new arrivals will take-take-take and not give back? How can they? If immigrants are accepted into their new community, they will stay and will not be able to help giving back as they build that better life. Is that what scares you? That people who aren’t white will stay on and become American?

After all, that’s how it happened in the past. Both Irish immigrants and Italian ones were considered “ethnic” in their time. They were not white enough to qualify for many jobs and they were marginalized. Today, they are a part of white America and unfortunately sometimes a part of the white America that’s anti-immigration. These are two populations who integrated really well. Scary, isn’t it?

Let’s not be like North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Venezuela, or Cuba. Let’s be like the United States of America, a country who’s always loved and hated its immigrant heritage but who’s at least giving immigrants a serious go. We’re the only ones in the world who are and it’s very good for us.

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