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Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – Your Illegal Immigrants, Too

August 29, 2012

A Taking Note post by Lawrence Downes in today’s New York Times, headlined “The G.O.P.’s Message to Latino Voters,” takes up the Republican convention’s “mixed up message” to Hispanic Americans.  Browsing the comments, I found a disturbing amount of anti-immigrant rhetoric – a lot of junk about “anchor babies” and illegal immigrants who are criminals, gangsters, moochers and bums.

I couldn’t help wonder how many of these generalizers actually know any of the illegal immigrants about whom they purport to be so expert.  My personal favorite illegal immigrant was my spouse’s late aunt.  She came to this country as a retired seamstress, a sweet old lady who never married and never had children.  She lived in the United States with her sister and some of her nieces and nephews.  I don’t think she ever gangsterized anybody, and she was no moocher.  She lived out her last days with her family, who were legal residents.  She is buried with her sister and brother-in-law, who were my mother- and father-in-law.

I was moved by these comments – “irritated” may be a better verb – to submit my own comment.  Ordinarily, my posts on PoliticsByEcceHomo are original here, but this is an issue of such personal importance to me that I decided to make an exception.  Here is my Taking Note comment, in full:

As a country, we have erected some pretty impressive obstacles to immigration, legal or illegal. If you aren’t wealthy, if you haven’t been accepted by a university, if you don’t have a spouse or parent who is a citizen, it is in fact really hard to get in.

Despite those obstacles, people do get in. They get in because they are highly motivated, unwavering in their determination to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Immigrants leave their homes, their countries, in many cases their languages – everything they have ever known – for a chance at our freedoms and opportunities. When they get here, immigrants are willing to do any work at any wage. People who were lawyers come here to work as laborers, and they are glad for the chance.

These are not listless people, freeloaders, or welfare-seekers. These are some of the hardest-working people in the world.

My challenge to all of the anti-immigrant commenters out there is this: how many illegal immigrants do you know, personally? When you throw out your pejoratives, what is the factual basis for your generalizations?

Some of my ancestors came here on the Mayflower – from the Native American point of view, my ancestors were among the original illegal immigrants. Nearly 400 years later, I am thrilled – I am unspeakably pleased – to live in a country that attracts such ardent devotion from people who are willing to move mountains for a chance at a better life.

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