I always find it amusing when a people who once fought for rights themselves stand in the way of the rights of others. You see traces of this today in our society as Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, German-Americans and even Japanese-Americans - all once on the wrong end of the immigration argument - fight to deport our newest immigrant population, Hispanics.
It begins in the 1830's when white Protestants attempted to stem the tide of Irish Catholics arriving in the north east. After all, a country founded on freedom of religion should have the right to kick people out who don't believe what they do. Then the Germans were targeted. These vile people would have German speaking schools and drink beer; two things America could not stand for. In the 1870's, just 40 years after the first Irish immigrants began flocking to the shores of New York City, Irish-Americans began attacking Chinese immigrants in western states. Pressure became so great that in 1882 Chester A. Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibiting ALL immigration of Chinese laborers.
In the 1920's, eugenics was a major practice in the US. You may remember eugenics as Hitler's reason for the mass murder of millions of Jewish people in Europe in order to create a "super race." In fact, eugenics in the United States provided inspiration for the programs of Nazi Germany. At this time, the "lesser races" included Catholics and Jews (both obviously religions, not races) as well as southeastern Europeans. Much of the fear of a diluted genetic pool came from a book entitled "The Passing of the Great Race" that argued that immigrants from Polish ghettos, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean lowered the American racial purity. Around this time, fear of unskilled laborers immigrating from Poland and Italy were feared to ruin the United States work force.
These days Irish Catholics, Italians, Pole's, Jews, Germans, southern Europeans, Balkans, and white Protestants are finally united. What caused this unity? A new threat: Mexicans! The victims are different but the fight is the same. Speak with someone with a less tolerant opinion on this subject and you will get much of the same rhetoric we have been hearing since the 1930's: they don't speak English, they are not American, they are unskilled, they will take our jobs, etc. Much of the hateful language has remained the same.
If you are a reader of my blog you may have noticed that I enjoy comparing current situations to similar situations from around the world. This time, however, I'm not going to provide a case study from around the world, I'm going to provide a case study from the US. As I said before, much of the language used against immigration has remained unchanged in the last (nearly) 200 years. In that time, the United States of America has not only survived the influx of immigrants from all over the world, but thrived BECAUSE of it, not in spite of it.
Anheuser-Busch, the brewing company that makes the very American Budweiser beer, is a fifteen BILLION dollar company started by two German born immigrants. Other companies started by immigrants include but are not limited to the following: Apple, Google, AT&T, Colgate, eBay, General Electric, IBM, and McDonalds. In fact, according to a Forbes.com article, 40% of fortune 500 companies in the United States were started by either immigrants or the children of immigrants. The revenue generated by those companies is greater than the gross domestic product of EVERY country in the world save for the US, China and Japan.
Immigration is a touchy subject (though I can't figure out how a country founded on immigration and made great by immigration would still stand so opposed to immigration) but I do hope that our new Mexican-American friends don't decide to leave this country to peruse their entrepreneurial dreams. In a time when more than 6% of our population is still unemployed we need new businesses to open right in our back yards in order to get us all back to work.