Over the last decade, many in the United States have begun an increasing campaign against “foreigners” and “outsiders.” Bills and legislation have been spurred on by the cry to keep others out and secure the borders of our country.
What many seem to have forgotten is that very few of us can trace our ancestry to this nation past a few hundred years. Other than those who were here when Britain first landed on the eastern coast of what is now the United States, no one is really “native” to this land. We all got our starts somewhere else and are now trying to selfishly hold on to something that does not rightfully belong to us.
Now, while I will admit that there is a current problem with illegal immigration by those who want to come here and not abide by the laws of this country, I also understand that many are left with little other choice. The lives many run from are often cruel and give little hope for advancement. I believe that many of the illegal immigration problems that we have are from the lack of a real program to allow immigrants to migrate easily to the United States.
Out of all of the legislation that has been proposed, the worker suggestions are the best. It gives immigrants a chance to work for real wages and the chance to earn citizenship through hard work; something that those of us who were born here do not have to deal with.
Many of our ancestors were immigrants at one time in history or another. The varied history of American citizens who are part Dutch, German, Irish, etc., are one of the many things that make this country the special place it is now.
One of the true landmarks attesting to the notion that America is the “melting pot of the world” is Ellis Island. Open from 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island was the gateway through which more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States, fleeing their own countries for a multitude of reasons.
My great-grandmother, Magdalena “Helen” Beck Gunther, came through Ellis Island in 1911 when she was just 6 years old. Her family came from a little town in what was then Austria-Hungary, desperate for the economic opportunities in America. There was little hope for her poor family in Europe and money was very tight. They ended up in Battle Creek, Mich., the poorest in a village of people all generating from the same area.
Likewise, my great-grandfather, Christopher Gunther, came from the same little town of Bocsar, Austria-Hungary, in 1921 for the talked-of opportunities in the United States.
My great-aunt, on the other hand, flew here from fear. In 1944, Margaret Schoenecker and her family fled from Romania to Austria to escape the invading Russians. She was just 9 at the time. Eight years later, her family moved to America.
All three of these family members turned out to thrive in this great country. As a “School House Rock” song pointed out, “America was founded by the English/ But also by the Germans, Dutch and French./ The principle still sticks;/ Our heritage is mixed/ So any kid could be the president.”
So instead of cheering when the immigrants are locked up because there is no proper way for those in fear for their lives or those of their children to enter this country legally, cheer for a way to uphold the spirit of the United States. Cheer for a law that would make it easier to come into this country and strive to become a citizen.
If people want to sneak below the lines, avoid the police and the law and take advantage of the rights we earn as citizens, I don’t want them in the country any more than anyone else. But if America was not the “Great Melting Pot,” we would not be here anymore than those who we are trying to thrust out.
The land of hope, the land of liberty and the land of freedom; that is how I see America. The freedom to choose what to say and what to do. The freedom to accept others for their differences and welcome those who want to work to be an active, participating member of our country. Building a wall and locking them out is not the solution. Working together, an answer can be found, but we first have to travel back in time to what our ancestors taught us. That every shade of skin, accent, religion and background makes no difference in the United States. Laws need to be made to adequately, and legally, allow people to come to this country and stay. Laws that punish people for doing what they thought was necessary at a trying time in their lives is not right.
Again I return to elementary lessons of “School House Rock”:
“You simply melt right in,/ It doesn’t matter what your skin./ It doesn’t matter where you’re from,/ Or your religion, you jump right in to the great American melting pot…America was the New World/ And Europe was the Old,/ America was the land of hope/ Or so the legend told./ On steamboats by the millions,/ In search of honest pay,/ Those 19th-century immigrants sailed/ To reach the U.S.A./ Lovely Lady Liberty/ With her book of recipes/ And the finest one she’s got/ Is the great American melting pot./ What good ingredients,/ Liberty and immigrants/ They brought the country’s customs,/ Their language and their ways./ They filled the factories, tilled the soil, helped build the U.S.A.”
This country needs to listen to the lessons of old and find a better way to build the U.S.A. of the future.