Friday, October 15, 2010

Thoughts on Immigration by Larry Stopper

When our ancestors arrived on these shores, they often came with little more than the shirts on their backs. While many were escaping prejudice and persecution, the vast majority were economic migrants. They were searching for something better than the generally miserable conditions they were coming from.

Economic migration has been with us since the dawn of mankind. The earliest tribes of hunter gatherers were economic migrants and many was the time they crossed into another tribes territory in search of food, only to be met with great hostility. The American colonists who settled in Texas at the beginning of the 19th century were economic migrants. They didn’t go to Texas for the weather, but in search of cheap land. It’s amazing so few people remember that the American southwest was stolen from Mexico largely to offer greater land access to U.S. economic migrants. What do we think all those folks were doing during the 19th century when they traveled west in great wagon trains?

scene from the Texas territory
The undocumented immigrants at the center of our current debate are generally just what those Texans were: economic migrants in search of a better life. Though attention has mostly been directed at the Hispanic population, I have personally worked on job sites in New York City where everybody else spoke Polish and maybe one or two were in this country legally. One of my business partners swam the Rio Grande 20c years ago with $100.00 dollars in his pocket and a dream. Now he’s a citizen and a partner in a thriving business.

The United States has been a beacon to the worlds poor at least since the Irish started coming over during the great potato famine of the 1840’s. We have been the world’s economic engine for the past hundred years precisely because we were so liberal in letting folks into our country. Yet prejudice and xenophobia have always accompanied the influx of foreign born people into the U.S. It strikes me as painfully ironic that our Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, is leading the attack on undocumented immigrants in Virginia. How long has it been since Mr. Cuccinelli’s family came here in search of a better life.

Now, right here in Virginia, based on Attorney General Cuccinelli’s legal opinion, all of us will be required to carry papers proving we are in the U. S. legally. This opinion, in my opinion, is directed squarely at the Hispanic community. “Where are your papers” is a line from a bad World War Two movie, not something a Virginia state trooper should be asking anyone when they make a traffic stop.

Finding a solution to the immigration question is a difficult task that will require compromise on all sides. We can’t round up twelve million people, and who knows what the effect on our economy and country would be if all those hard working folks just up and left. We have to dig deep and find compromises we can live with. Blaming our current troubles on the latest group of people to reach our shores looking for a better life is a losing proposition and destined to hurt us without solving the question.

      -- Larry Stopper lives in Afton. He is a third-generation American and a proud, first-generation Virginian
* calls to Mr. Cuccinelli's political office and the office of the Attorney General asking for this information were not returned.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Mr. Stopper, for today's post. I am a resident alien and even though I hold that legal status, the current attitude towards immigrants makes me rather concerned. It soothes some of my fears to hear a level head speak out.