Sunday, August 12, 2007

How Most Of Our Ancestors Really Got Here

One of the main arguments used against the current undocumented immigrants to the US is that they shouldn't be rewarded for breaking US law by entering the country illegally. People who use this argument inevitably refer back to their own ancestors as having coming here in the proper manner, so everyone else should do so as well. This line of thinking is, of course, utter hogwash, according to Brian Donohue in an op-ed piece published in today's Sacramento Bee.

First of all, for hundreds of years, as immigrants poured in by the hundreds of thousands from the 1600s to the early 1900s, there were simply no federal immigration laws to break.

Unless you were a criminal or insane (or after 1882, Chinese), once you landed here, you were legal.

...lots of people's ancestors simply didn't come here legally.

Once Congress put immigration quotas in place to keep out less-desirable Eastern and Southern Europeans in 1921, they began sneaking in by the thousands.

On June 17, 1923, the New York Times reported that W.H. Husband, commissioner general of immigration, had been trying for two years "to stem the flow of immigrants from central and southern Europe, Africa and Asia that has been leaking across the borders of Mexico and Canada and through the ports of the east and west coasts."

A story from the Sept. 16, 1927, New York Times describes government plans for stepped-up Coast Guard patrols because thousands of Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, Russians and Italians were landing in Cuba and then hiring smugglers to take them to the United States, illegally.

Two years earlier, the immigration service reported that 1.4 million immigrants might be living illegally in the United States, according to the immigration service's 1925 annual report.

"The figures presented are worthy of very serious thought, especially when it is considered that such a great percentage of our population ... whose first act upon reaching our shores was to break our laws by entering in a clandestine manner," the report found.

The problem got so bad that the government was forced to legalize an estimated 200,000 illegal European immigrants by a process called pre-examination. These days, the process would be called amnesty.
[Emphasis added]

Then, as now, the poor from Ireland, Italy, Russia, Poland and the rest of the world had to sneak in through the same places as they do now, and they did, by the millions. In order to stay, they had to do the same lousy, dirty, and hard work that undocumented workers are doing now.

There may be some good reasons for securing our borders, but this just doesn't happen to be one of them.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

Makes you wonder about how the Malkin and the O'Reilly clans came to these shores.

10:43 AM  

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