Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nuestra Historia: Immigration in NY

Fleshing out some of my thoughts from the Immigration Protest, I felt compelled to make a visit to Liberty and Ellis Islands, seeing how some 10 million immigrants (who now have around 100 million living US relatives) came to find themselves in the U.S. by way of New York city.

It's interesting to see how America sold the idea of needing immigrants to develop and work its' newly purchased (or acquired) territories in the 19th century and how this idea slowly gave way to the most hotly debated topics among already naturalized citizens. Basically the only thing that changed over he years were the destination countries of immigrants and stricter immigration policies. As immigrants to the U.S. increasingly came from Asian and Latin American countries in the 20th century, the US implemented tighter immigration reforms, some quite racist, such as Operation Wetback (yes, really).

True, some xenophobia has always existed towards new immigrants in the US, whether Irish and Italian or Chinese and Mexican immigrants. What worries me is the lack of perspective of those so eager to persecute the newcomers in failing to realize that they themselves might not exist if it were not for immigration. One of my favorite arguements on immigration comes from Fareed Zakaria's "Post-American World." To paraphrase: immigrants are in many ways, the backbone of the United States, they provide a cheap source of labor that keeps America's wheels turning in addition to contributing to the rich cultural fabric that is the US of A.

Perhaps most importantly, immigrants coming to the US and obtaining a better life for themselves and their loved ones demonstrates that the American Dream is still alive and well, which is why so many people still want to live here and believe in our values. This ideology, often overlooked by those who could care less about the American Dream, is still one of the most important ideas we can communicate to the world and as Zakaria argues, one of the biggest hopes we have for maintaining our edge in the world.

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