Fun Fact about Me: I have an ancestor who was a governor of the Jamestown colony, the first permanent British settlement in North America. That means I have ancestors that were here a decade before the Mayflower. But guess what? He was still an immigrant!
Every year or so since the Great Recession, we seem to feel the need to have a conversation about immigration. Many people get very high and mighty in their rhetoric, and believe new immigrants should jump through hoops to be here. However, these arguments often seem to lose sight of the fact that our nation was built by immigrants. Unless your family is 100% Native American, someone had to cross an ocean for you to be here. Even if you have ancestors who have been here for centuries, we should never lose sight that we are all the product of immigrants.
Another argument you sometimes hear against immigration is that somehow the European immigrants that came to this country were somehow different than the ones coming now. They were more part of the community and integrated faster.
However, this is also a myth. Again, I can point to my family for an example. I have great-grandparents on another side of my family who came to New York City from Germany in the 1890’s. They settled in Harlem, in an area where mostly other German immigrants lived. They worked in German-owned businesses and went to German church. My grandfather, who was born in New York, spoke only English until he was six years old. How much different is this from immigrants coming today? If I changed “German” to “Venezuelan”, this could have happened today. I might even argue that the immigrants today blend better than my ancestors did.
Diversity should be considered a strength. In Canada, (another country that attracts a lot of immigrants), “Canadian identity” is considered an idea that has many strands and many faces. Being an “American” should definitely be similar. At the very least, we should be moving away from the idea that white people are somehow more American.
For almost a year, I have been employed teaching English grammar to recent immigrants. The majority of my students are here on student visas, so their lives mostly revolve around learning English and learning more about their new country. Most have big dreams and want better lives than the ones they had in their own country. Many of them have come across more patriotic than most Americans, definitely more patriotic than me, even as someone who has family here for centuries. As a country, we should be encouraging these people, not trying to get rid of them. These future Americans are truly the foundation of our country.