KAMISCHKE: Remember that we are a nation of immigrants

Like many of you, I've been watching television news and seeing families, mostly kids, arriving at our southern border.
Aug 1, 2014

 

I believe that every country must have secure borders, but I also believe we must help people in need. So, I am ambivalent about what we should do.

However, I'm not ambivalent about the ugly nature of those crowds: yelling, sneering, sign carrying, spitting, chanting; directing their ugliness at busloads of kids; kids that have just traveled hundreds of miles and endured great hardships, hoping for a better life.

This unwelcoming committee, made up of people whose ancestors once arrived uninvited, does not square with the Statue of Liberty's inscription: "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." Should our generation remove this plaque for the sake of honesty?

I've also heard protester-on-the-street interviews: They tell us that we should take care of our own first before we spend taxpayer dollars on those people. However, these mostly white people come from conservative states that have shown little interest in spending their tax dollars on "our own." They even reject federal dollars so that their own could pay for Medicaid health insurance. Such discrepancies between words and deeds make their concerns seem less than genuine. It also implies that we can't do both, as if our trillion-dollar government can't do two things at once.

Their objections, and there are many, are all variations on the theme — immigrants are not to be judged as people in need, but as illegals and invaders.

Yet, in a 2014 study, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that almost 60 percent of the Central American children arriving alone at our border are leaving conditions that qualify for international protection. This is why it's important for the judicial process, put in place during the Bush administration, to be given the time and resources to do their job properly.

Our border issues are small in comparison to some other countries. Pakistan has over 2 million refugees. The little island of Malta has one refugee for every three natives. Kenya is receiving Somalians; Greece, Jordan and Bulgaria have a steady flow from Iraq and Afghanistan; Thailand has refugees from Myanmar; Chad receives the homeless from the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the list goes on.

Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch points out, “Lebanon, a country about the size of Connecticut, has seen an influx of about 1 million refugees from Syria,” which when adjusted for total population is equivalent to 73 million crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Jordan has similar ratios.

For centuries, the U.S. has been a haven for people fleeing potato famines, Nazis, religious persecution and oppression. Some of us remember the 1980 Mariel boatlift, where more than 100,000 Cubans floated to our shore as refugees. In our own community, we have resettled refugees from Nepal, hopefully with improved prospects. In all these examples, we found places for everyone.

So, while I admit that the arrival of thousands of immigrants is problematic, I am ashamed at the level of vitriol so many of my fellow citizens are willing to demonstrate. It is similar to the newsreel footage from the 1960s: white people acting badly, club wielding, screaming, hating; convinced that the ancestors of slaves still didn't deserve to sit at lunch counters, use rest rooms and front doors, vote, or sit at the front of the bus.

I don't know any refugees, but I would guess that anyone who could endure the conditions imposed by their journey — bringing only what they could carry, lacking what we would consider essential, being at the mercy of others, appreciating things we take for granted — would make a fine citizen.

In fact, I think it would improve things immeasurably if the immigration service would swap one protester for one refugee, sending the protester back to the refugee's hometown.

Remember, people are not born in the place of their choosing. It was only the accident of parentage that the protester may have been born in the U.S. and the immigrant in Central America.

The protesters' lack of empathy shows a shallowness of character; which, for the good of the country, we can easily forego. The refugee, on the other hand, has demonstrated characteristics we admire and should reward. The biggest problem is to get Guatemala and Honduras to go along.

Excluding Native Americans, we are all immigrants. We live in America not because we are special, but because we are lucky. Demonstrating intolerance for new arrivals is a form of cultural amnesia.

We need to use our immigration policy — but, in the meantime, perhaps we could dust off some of those Christian values of which we're so proud, or are we saving them for a special occasion?

— By Richard Kamischke, Tribune community columnist

Comments

Wolverine49457

We are also a nation of Laws, we invite immigrants openly but we deserve to know who is crossing our border and assimilating. Send money, take care of the children but to overrun the system and let them walk across the border is against the law. The angry mobs are no better than the politicians who say if you don’t agree with ignoring laws they put in place you are a racist or do not care for children for both are only meant to control others and not intended to help the children.
What is going on is an insult to those who study and work hard for years to become citizens besides God said “Obey the laws of the land” Rom:13 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

If you do not like the laws of the land or believe it is wrong it should be considered and changed but to selectively ignore law is to ignore the God that put the powers in authority for no government or authority is in place without being placed there by God.

zwesterhouse

Now what if the Indians say "we want our land back! all you whites go back from where you came"

VanX

Wolverine and his other 'hatriot' pals are stumbling all over themselves trying to come up with Bible verses that support their 'conservative family values' while totally ignoring the true message of Christ when he taught us to take care of those who are sick, poor and imprisoned. They want to ignore the child-trafficking laws that were put in place before Obama's presidency and send the kids back for wanting the exact same thing their immigrant ancestors wanted: a better life. Unfortunately, our Congressman and the House of Representatives insist on doing absolutely NOTHING about it. The angry mobs are toxic, self-serving half-wits and they're an embarrassment and a danger to our country.

Truth Be Told

We are a nation of LEGAL immigrants and laws.

VanX...have you opened YOUR home to illegals ?
Do that, then get back to us..

VanX

Read the newspaper, Governor Snyder says there are less than 100 Central American kids in Michigan, and he's for hosting more! Your question is ludicrous and makes absolutely no sense. But YES, I AM willing to open up my home to refugees (you insult yourself by calling people, little kids, "illegals") and my home is the good ol' USA. But I'd vote to send you to a internment camp! Here's a stupid question back at you TBT: Have you volunteered to patrol the boarder to protect our country from the advancing hoards of brown-skinned "illegals"?

Highlander

My grandmother & grandfather were "illegals" from the UK. Their children & grandchildren are successful, loyal, and compassionate, & contribute in positive ways to this country.

They law grants asylum to refugees.

What does the base of the Statue of Liberty read? Or doesn't that matter anymore, which make this entire nation a nation of hypocrites?

Americans should stop using Bible verses to validate their hate. It just makes them look stupid. Get out of Grand haven and you'll see that the great country is a nation of many (E. Pluribus Unem) - a melting pot.

Laws are manipulated, altered or changed, and broken to benefit the rich and powerful, while hurting the people the laws are supposed to protect. Our own "lawmakers" abuse laws and the Constitution to benefit power, not Democracy. So, enough with the "we are a nation of laws" rhetoric.

trangerfan

Really folks...a country . Of laws? Why don't you ask a . Native American how many laws your ancestors broke when they illegallyimmigrated, stole their land and killed most of their families an then out of the goodness of their hearts...gave them Oklahoma!! Or ask those Mexicans how their families felt when we decided ..hey we like these state's of TEXAS, Colorado, New Mexico., so we will will just take that land..maybe they have decided they want it back..we could probably stop them by telling them they get ole Ricky Perry in the deal!

Mystic Michael

The Puritans and Pilgrims, whose legacies we celebrate every Thanksgiving, arrived upon our shores, along with the Huguenots, the Quakers, the Anabaptists and others, after having suffered years of discrimination and religious persecution in Europe. And not long after they established themselves here, they promptly set about creating the very same sort of rigid, intolerant, hostile environment for subsequent refugees that they themselves had just escaped.

Thus has it ever been, with yesterday's refugees (or their descendants) having become today's xenophobes and bigots, who then oppose the refugees of their own time. The most convenient pretext, as usual, is "law & order" - conveniently ignoring (or more likely, in complete ignorance of) the existence of the humanitarian accommodations that also exist within our laws - as if the law spoke only of justice, and had nothing to say about mercy.

GOLDEN

VanX is typical of the short-sighted liberals who would ignore the fact that we are a nation with laws that need to be enforced regarding immigration. If vanx would open his(her) home to illegal immigrants he could be guilty of harboring fugitives. My ancestors came to this country over 100 years ago and did it legally, not sneaking in and expecting to have all the privileges of citizenship without earning them. Those who hold up the fist white settlers as illegal overlook the fact that there are no known laws written by the native Americans in the 1400's regarding the immigration process. It appears the current administration in Washington wants all these people sneaking into the country through Texas because they see them as voters for democrats because they will be seen as the people who let the into the USA without due process of the existing laws.

Freddo

First of all, Golden, laws don't have to be written to be laws. Native Americans had laws like everyone else, and some felt very strongly indeed about European incursions onto their land. Some tribes had very specific ideas of land ownership. Some deviously sold the land of their neighbors to the Europeans.

Secondly, you needn't go back to the 1400s (especially since large-scale settlement of the United States didn't begin until the 1500s in Spanish Florida and the 1600s in Virginia and Massachusetts). Look at the 1800s, when the United States government made treaties with Native American tribes. The treaties delineated areas of the West as Native American lands. Then white illegal immigrants -- oops, I meant settlers and pioneers and prospectors -- moved onto those lands when gold or good farmland was found. At that point, the US government abrogated the treaties, moved the Native population by force, and took the land.

Is the world different now? Yes. Do we need immigration policies to identify who is here? Yes. However, it is the worst sort of ex post facto justification to claim that what European immigrants did was "legal," while claiming that undocumented immigrants today represent something completely different. It's the same thing. The only thing that's changed is ownership of the lands being immigrated to.

gordbzz231

They all pick on the immigrants from the south, but what about the one,s that came to America in boat load,s from the east, we had open arm,s. paid for their housing gave them food and took care of their medical need,s, those people are also the most hard working people i have seen, much like the one,s from the south, they will work where no white man will go,our government has done this act for many years, they just didnt tell you

ffjavelina

Mr. Kamischke ends his column with 'in the meantime, perhaps we could dust off some of those Christian values of which we're so proud, or are we saving them for a special occasion?' Really? Mr. K. This is at least the second time you've used the Christian values remark or have made references to the Bible, Heaven, God, etc. in your columns. When you say 'WE', does that include you? I think not. One must be of the Christian faith to include themselves in such remarks. Stop using the bible and Christian beliefs in your columns unless you are going to openly admit to your readers you are a non Christian and do not even believe. One should first believe in God before using religion as a tool. Hypocrites say one thing and do another. At least this time you didn't single out Republicans as you've done previously. By the way, how soon will your new illegal, I mean undocumented immigrant, be arriving at your home to live? We won't be holding our breath. Let the states with the border problems deal with it right? By the way. How do you think the Black community feels about Obama wanting to give work visas to illegal immigrants when he has yet to provide blacks within this country the jobs he promised (over 6 years ago)?

thecatsmom

The immigrants that went through Ellis Island had to have a marketable trade and be of good health. They helped build this country as they brought talent and skills. These are not immigrants that can contribute to the greater good.
We are not responsible to take care of all the worlds problems and people.
It seems to me the world needs a massive birth control program. Lets start in this country and support people who really dont want a litter every year, and also eliminate the programs that reward, through entitlements, having a baby to keep on the dole. We the working people are sick of supporting all these people that have done nothing to support our country and our way of life.

Highlander

This post has so much wrong with it.
1. Ellis Island was one of many ports of entry. While some immigrants were turned away for health reasons (I.e. An abscessed tooth), most immigrants were uneducated and had very little to offer the USA, other than their pair of arms and work ethic (agricultural jobs), which new immigrants have as well (agricultural jobs)
2. You said, "these are not immigrants that can contribute to the greater good." You cannot possibly believe this? Many/most of these immigrants possess the same fortitude as our ancestor immigrants. They work in restaurants, in the fields harvesting the very food you eat, anywhere they can get hired to make a buck.
3. You said, "we are not responsible to take care of the worlds problems and people. You may want to rethink that one. History and policy contradict your views.
4. "A litter" of children?" This is an issue with some Catholics, re: Hobby Lobby, etc. it's not just a "brown people thing."
5. Eliminate entitlements for the rich, which actually cost much more money. eliminate entitlements like "off shore banking" which shirk responsibility. Eliminate full retirement entitlements for politicians? (Good luck) ......Social security, Medicare, military, meager service pensions, are not entitlements in my eyes. As an American, it is my (our) responsibility to take care of our vets, our elderly and the the people who cannot take care of themselves.
6. Can welfare be revised? Certainly. All welfare. Corporate welfare costs a lot of money, too. Many Corps pay little, to no taxes, and send jobs to other countries and are rewarded for this practice. How is this "patriotic?"
7. Democracy has it's costs. We have to invest in this country to make it great. We had high taxes in the 40's, 50's, 60's. This helped this country pay for WWII, the national highway system, paying for NASA & putting a human being on the moon, etc. BTW, all those taxes payed for research & development which gave us the science for the internet, modern computers, fax machines, cell phones etc. Now corporations profit from that (i.e. We (taxes) subsidized their huge profits which is why they should pay taxes).
http://www.politifact.com/truth-...

E. Pluribus Unem and United we stand, decided we fall.....and all that. Divided we are. We are "falling". Unfortunately, we Americans don't walk our talk.

Mystic Michael

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

― John Kenneth Galbraith

deuce liti

"Ask not what I can do for you, but what you can do for me."

-me me me.

Thought that was apt.

Lanivan

Many of the comments on this forum, and in others, reflect a bitter, selfish, and paranoid fear of the loss of power and control within their worldview. People who perceive their way as being the only right way will fight hard to stop that way from the inevitable march of time and it's impact on it by change. This is hardly a new or unique response.

Most of these perceptions and fears are based on misinformation, and are skewed by deep-seated racial and prejudiced animus, rather than the facts. For example:

* The growth of the undocumented immigrant population has slowed in recent years. In 2000 there were an estimated 8.4 million undocumented persons residing in the United States. This population peaked in 2007 at 12 million, but decreased to 11.1 million by 200918 and remains stable at 11.1 million in 2011.

* The majority of undocumented immigrants are well-settled in the United States. About 63 percent of undocumented immigrants have been living in the United States for 10 years or longer.

* Nearly half of settled undocumented immigrants are homeowners. Among undocumented immigrants who had lived in the United States for 10 years or longer, 45 percent were homeowners in 2008.

* More than half of the undocumented immigrant population has a high school degree or higher. Fifty-two percent of undocumented immigrants have a high school diploma or higher, and 15 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

* Immigration reform will decrease the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.

* Immigration reform will increase the earnings of all Americans. Immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, such as S. 744, will increase the earnings of all American workers by $470 billion over the next decade.

* Undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes annually. Households headed by unauthorized immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010. This includes $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.2 billion in property taxes, and more than $8 billion paid in sales and excise taxes. Immigrants—even legal immigrants—are barred from most social services, meaning that they pay to support benefits they cannot even receive.

* Taxes paid by legalized immigrants more than offset any use of social programs. The CBO found that increases in costs to social programs are modest and will be more than paid for by the tax contributions of immigrants. The increase in spending in Social Security and Medicare from 2024 through 2033, for example, will be $65 billion—just 4.4 percent of the total increase in tax revenues.

* Immigrants will pay substantially more into Social Security than they will take out, and their contributions will be essential in supporting retiring Baby Boomers. Assuming that 85 percent of undocumented immigrants gain legal status and citizenship, immigrants will provide a net $606.4 billion contribution to Social Security over the next 36 years—the very same time period when retiring Baby Boomers will place the greatest strain on the system.

http://www.americanprogress.org/...

Besides the faith-based and moral urgency in helping the recent surge of undocumented immigrant children, fleeing from lives of violence and poverty, there are compelling economic reasons to educate oneself regarding immigration.

deuce liti

I agree!

People have a disgusting, "this is my piece of dirt, American pride, I won't share, I was here first" attitude steep in raw racist beliefs.

Truly American.

Being in a multiracial marriage I've discovered the most vocal about their racism is mostly old white ladies and generally people 60 or over, based on my personal experience.

They have this attitude of, "I've been here all my life, worked hard and won't let anyone tread on my deserved check."

They will never see the other side of coin. Coincidentally, they usually vote for people that takeaway their entitlements (social security).

ekwilliams

Deuce liti
Don't be so quick to judge we "mature" folks. I am a woman of Viking heritage in late '70s. I and most of my friends are appalled at the treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children at our southern border who are fleeing from unbearable violence and poverty in Central American countries. I would volunteer to help in a immigrant facility here in our own community. Think about it!

deuce liti

Like I said, "in my experience. "

You and some of your friends may not feel this way, but plenty of people have made a lot of remarks to me quite the opposite. Also, I've experienced it.

More often than not.

So based on that experience is why I can make those comments.

Harry Kovaire

Nobody has a right to immigrate to this country, legally or otherwise. The US should be run for the benefit of its citizens and not for all the people of the world.

Lanivan

The country isn't being run for the benefit of the citizens now, with a broken and dysfunctional Congress which seems unable and unwilling to govern.

With a corporate-driven government, open carry in every aspect of society, deregulation, trickle down economics creating a degree of wealth disparity not seen since the gilded age, this country is headed towards third world status, with the net result a decrease in immigration and an increase in emigration. Nothing to crab about Harry!

 

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