Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Immigrants

Over at Bayou Renaissance Man, Peter has a link to a quiz on the Declaration of Independence.  I took it, and I will claim disability so that I don't have to put up my score.  In my defense, I'm comfortably numb at the moment.

Peter expresses surprise at being told that naturalized citizens tend to do better at these things than native born citizens.  I have also come to believe that immigrant citizens tend to know more about our Constitution, our government, our laws, and our history than a lot of us native borns.  Let's face it, when I first learned about the Declaration, I was very young, and a lot of it went over my head.  Someone who is learning it for the citizenship test is older, more mature, and motivated.

The stark reality is this:  all I did to get my citizenship was take my second breath.  Someone like Peter or my grandfather made a conscious decision to not only leave the place they were born, but to also learn about this strange place we call America and prove their knowledge when challenged by the government.

If you can't already tell, I'm one of those who thinks that the United States is strengthened by immigration, but I do believe that it has to be controlled levels of immigration and we should allow in those who can positively contribute and who prove they can stay out of trouble.

When our family moved from North Dakota to California, for the first time in my life, I met immigrants who didn't look and sound like me. Remember - ethnic diversity in North Dakota means having a Swede on the school board and a German teaching French*.  We got there just after the 1986 amnesty, so there were  a lot of new, proud citizens.  When we finally settled into what at the time was a nice house in a nice neighborhood, about half of our neighbors were new citizens from one Latin American country or another.  One in particular lived just down the street from us, Mrs. Ruiz.

Mrs. Ruiz (Never Senora, thank you very much) was an old grandmother who had come across the border somewhere near San Diego in the 1950's with her husband, and they had lived their lives and brought up their family as illegal immigrants.  They had both worked hard in whatever jobs they could find, had brought up their sons and daughters, all of whom were born in California and were therefore citizens, to love both Mexico and the United States, and stayed out of trouble.  On a few occasions, I tried to speak what little Spanish I had with her, and she smiled, played along, then switched back to her very lightly accented English.  She liked to joke that she learned to read and write English at the same time my mother did.  I went to high school with one of her many granddaughters, and it wasn't her father I had to talk to when I wanted to ask her out, it was Mrs. Ruiz.  I never crossed swords with her, but I distinctly remember the boyfriend of one of her other granddaughters taking a brutal verbal assault from this little gray haired lady when he decided act like trash in her house.  This lady worked hard her whole life, never took a dollar that wasn't earned, and never put up with crap from anyone.

I contrast her with some of the native born citizens I see here in Kentucky, who can trace their lineage in Louisville back to George Rogers Clark, but never mastered speaking proper English, never were that interested in school, and are perfectly fine watching their offspring dress, act, and speak like trash in public.  You know, the fine ladies and gentlemen who can't tell you who their senators are, but can tell you the winning lottery numbers from last night and know where the cheapest beer and cigarettes are to be had within 5 miles.  They will, however, fill you in on how the illegal Mexican family down the street seems to be doing well with their well-behaved children who are going to school, their brightly painted house with all the flowers, and the admittedly loud sounding 1980-something sedan they drive.  Must be into drugs or something, according to these scions of old American families.  It can't be because the father lives in the house, both parents get up in the morning and work hard all day, and raise kids that know that the hand of God himself will do no more damage to them than their parents will if they mess up in school or get in trouble with the law.  No, it must be drug money

Yes, I'm conflicted about illegal immigration.  All things being equal, I would prefer that the borders were locked down and people who wanted to come here were screened prior to applying for food stamps.  I recognize the corrosive effects of uncontrolled immigration has on our social services, our communities, and our politics.  But I also know that there can be a net benefit to immigration, and that by letting in people from around the world, our country has a way to grow and evolve while still staying true to its founding principles.   I'm also honest enough to recognize that a lot of us native born Americans don't act any better than the stereotypes we affix to illegal immigrants, and in a lot of ways, we're worse.

Our country was built by immigrants, for immigrants.  We have no claim to nobility due to being born here, but we do have a claim of ownership.   We are more than willing to share the bounty of our land with those who want to come here to enrich not only themselves, but also the country as a whole.  When we stop letting immigration in some form happen, then we rob our grandchildren of a strength that we have come to rely on.

*Ours learned it when he was stationed in Paris - no joke.  Of course, he was stationed there in 1951, but that's another story.

2 comments:

Joshkie said...

:-)

Old NFO said...

No problem here with LEGAL immigration... Illegal, nope, send em home, and let em get in line to come here legally.

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