June 28, 2018
The United States of America is the most powerful country on earth. Our economy is doing very well, there are plenty of jobs for all who want to work, and our military is by far the strongest of all nations. We are the most desirable country in the world in which to live, so it is no surprise that many in the rest of the world want to come here to raise their families.
We have 50 states to choose from, multiple climates, and a tremendous amount of open space. People have been coming here from all over the world for 300 years. In fact, almost everyone living here today is either an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants. Boston and New York are known for their Irish-descended population, the Midwest for its legacy of German immigration, and the West Coast for the impact of its Asian and Latin American immigrants.
As conditions in places like the Central American countries deteriorate – too many people, too few jobs, all exacerbated by extreme violence –desperate citizens set out for the USA in hopes of creating better lives for themselves. The same goes for those living in chaos and without hope in Europe and across the world.
The problem is that there are many now living in the USA who came from foreign countries but who don’t want any more people to come here. They like the status quo and their resistance has been going on for many years.
The very first Congress decreed that only “free white men” could become citizens of The United States. During the California gold rush in the mid-1800s, laws were passed to restrict Chinese men and women from becoming citizens. At the same time, the Irish, Italians, and Jewish were not welcome in East Coast cities like Boston and New York.
To be sure, changes have taken place in American immigration laws enacted by Congress over the years. The most important and far reaching of them was the “1965 Immigration and Nationality Act,” which closed the doors to Europeans and opened them for people from Latin America and Asia, in the process changing the long term composition of the USA for the foreseeable future.
The value of immigrants is readily apparent ,especially to the western farmers who need Latin American workers to bring in their crops, the families, here and there, who want to be united, and the US high tech businesses who want to bring in European and Asian expertise. Still, it is Washington politicians who make the rules and they are guided by their own history and, significantly, their desire to be reelected.
Today, the Republican Party and its president are trying to limit immigration, believing their conservative followers want to keep America for Americans. The Democratic Party has always taken a more liberal view, preferring asylum for those fleeing persecution and violence. Individuals in foreign countries who have assisted our American military are also given special access when it comes to immigration.
Which leaves the country today waiting for the US Senate and the US House of Representatives to come together and approve a bill for the president to sign that will straighten out the mess that our immigration laws are in right now.
According to the Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics, between 700,000 and 1 million new citizens are naturalized each year. This may seem insignificant in terms of our total population of 325.7 million, but the number of new citizens each year continues to come as a surprise to many people.
In addition, according to the Homeland Security report there were as of Jan. 1, 2014, 13.2 million legal permanent residents (LPRs) living in the USA, with 8.9 million of them eligible to become citizens. Most of the latter number are Green Card holders. These are most astounding figures.
The fact of these 8.9 million potentially legal citizens living in the US is rarely reported in the media, but it puts in perspective the entire immigration problem.
In preparing this article, I made a list of immigrants and their families whom I come in contact with regularly:
My frequently visited gas station is owed by a family born in Lebanon … My pharmacist is an Asian American … My doctor at MGH is from a Korean family … My cleaners, who have three stores, were all born in San Salvador, and they have a front-of-the-store clerk who was born in Kabul, Afghanistan … The building manager of my former office is a highly educated Irishman who was born in Dublin.
So it is easy to see the positive impact of immigration to our country.
The politicians in Washington should take note of the famous poem printed on the plaque inside the base of the Statue of Liberty, which preaches, in part:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
“Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
“Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me
“I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”