What did you or I do to become an American? Did either of us walk hundreds of sweltering miles, lay in thorny brush, climb twenty foot high fences, or hide with twenty others in the back of a small trailer to get here? Nay. We were born in a hospital here. We had our birth certificate- our citizenship- handed to us, just because of our parents’ nationality. You nor I never even took a test, stood in a line, or even so much as asked to be who we are. But millions of people, from every reach of the world, have tried. People from Sudan and Somolia, Colombia and Ecuador, Cambodia and Myanmar. Each of them ask. They beg and plead; they tell of their sufferings, they travel many uncomfortable miles to get here- only to be turned away by Lady Liberty herself.
America is an immigrant nation. somewhere down the line, almost every one of us has some immigrant blood in him or her. Whether your ancestors came from Europe or Africa, Asia, or South America, they came to this country, seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity. You nor I would be here if our ancestors had been turned away when they arrived. America is a melting pot. We have absorbed fashions, foods, inventions, and ideas from each new wave of immigrants. A recent NBC news poll of college freshman showed that this generation’s favorite condiment is salsa. We need our immigrants as much as they need us.
During the Dust Bowl, hundreds of thousands moved from Oklahoma to California to find work and feed their children. California was the promised land for so many people. If they could only reach California, everything would be okay. But as they found out when they arrived, such was not the case. There weren’t enough jobs for everyone who came, and even those who did land work, didn’t get a fair wage anyway. And the locals despised them. Anyone who came to California for work was labeled n Okie, which was, at first, just shorthand for one from Oklahoma. but the phrase soon came to be derogatory, meaning a worthless vagrant, a slum-dweller. The term, involuntarily creating hate for any non-local, severely impaired Californians’ capacity for sympathy, fueling the sufferings of the Immigrants. In the words of a young orator, when someone hears the word ‘Immigrant’ they think, “Dirty, Filthy, Job-Stealing, Mexicans.” The title, ‘Mexican,’ has come to stand for those very things in our culture, the same way ‘Okie’ was to California in the 1930s.
And what about the Exodus. I ask you, were the hebrews born is Israel, or did they travel hundreds of sweltering miles to get to their promised land? But how many Americans think of the exodus as a negative event? I say, that if anyone works harder, travels further, and suffers more, to become a citizen than any of us ‘naturalized’ softies, they deserve to be in the country to which they’ve suffered to come. Would you, walk barefoot through the desert, climb through barbed wire, or be shot at, just be an American? No? Then just give your spot up to someone who has.