We often hear people say that “we are a nation of immigrants” or that “this nation was built by immigrants” as if that somehow justifies the liberal attitude many people hold regarding immigration. These comments seem to have their origin in the great migration from the late 1800s to early 1900s when many people emigrated from Europe. Some of the immigrants who arrived no doubt had criminal intents but most, like my great grandfather, who immigrated to America legally in 1882 came mostly in search of greater economic opportunity and to fully assimilate into the American culture. This was 66 years before the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 which authorized for a limited period of time the admission into the United States of 200,000 certain European displaced persons for permanent residence.
I, like many others, was born and raised in a city with several large immigrant populations. Among them were the Germans, Polish, Italians and Irish many of whom who came to the city to work in the steel mills or came with skills to start their own businesses as my great grandfather did. While some members of these populations tended to concentrate in their own ethnic neighborhoods they also brought an enjoyable diversity of culture and foods to the city as a whole; a process that has repeated itself in many major urban areas of our country. Perhaps this is why today’s immigration problems are so heart wrenching and difficult to discuss.
The intent of this blog post is to present some history on the complex problem of immigration in light of some issues that have come up in recent years and to finally offer some suggestions for change on both sides of the immigration equation. Continue reading