"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

The new Colossus

These powerful and inspirational words that were written in 1883 and featured in a sonnet entitled, "The New Colossus" by American poet Emma Lazarus are the words that are engraved on the pedestal of America’s most famous icon that represents immigration to the United States...the Statue of Liberty.

However, in the year 2017 on the same “teeming shores” that Emma Lazarus so passionately described in her ode to an immigrant welcoming “America”, there is a dark and ominous cloud that’s adrift in the continental United States of America.

This “toxic cloud” reeks strongly of fascism, White nationalism and authoritarianism. Americans are now being led by a President who calls the press “The enemy of the American people” and who looks to make the United States of America “Whiter” by expelling undocumented Original Americans from the United States while opening the front door to the Russians.

It’s as though we’ve miraculously traveled as a nation through an alternate universe and have entered an episode of Rod Serlings “Twilight Zone”.

In this episode, we’re witnessing the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1933 Germany through the actions and speech of a newly elected U.S. President who is unquestionably a pathological liar, a narcissistic groper, a xenophobic and arguably a racist. It’s a “universe” where Alternative Facts trumps Facts and Russia’s supreme dictator, Vladimir Putin is really our friend and ally. It is surreal and it is frightening. The world is watching us and except for Vladimir Putin and Stephen Bannon no one is amused.

Part 1

As newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump continues to ramp-up his partisan rhetoric to make good on his political promise to construct a wall that stretches across the U.S. south-western border, separating the United States from Mexico, Americans who are opposed to this controversial endeavor have found the moral-courage to unite and emphatically say “Hell No” to building “Trump’s Wall” and “Hell No” to Trump’s immoral plans to separate undocumented parents from their American-born children.

anti Mexican wall demonstrators

The building of “The Wall” has even prompted Pope Francis to say on February 18, 2016 that then GOP front-runner Donald Trump "is not Christian" if he calls for the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants while pledging to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.

Across the United States from New York City to New Orleans to Seattle, protestors are vociferously challenging the audacity of Donald Trump to attempt to build a physical wall that not only sullies the great American tradition of helping a needy neighbor but also greatly disrespects the descendants of Mayans, Incas and Aztecs whose ancestors have freely roamed the Americas for thousands of years.

Not only is it economically unwise to erect a “super wall” that separates the United States from its third largest trading partner but it’s also economically imprudent to put an unnecessary 15 to 20 billion-dollar burden on American tax payers. Apparently only diehard Trump supporters who are willing to accept “Alternative Facts” as non-fiction are convinced that the Mexican government, led by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will submit to American thuggery and miraculously “ante up” to pay for the construction of this costly and divisive wall.

But why build a wall? Why should the U.S. government denigrate powerless people who are lured to the U.S. by an abundance of low paying jobs in industries that constantly “fish” for undocumented immigrants who are willing to perform “bottom of the barrel” work that most Americans find “repugnant”?

I’ve never met an American who complained that someone from “south of the border” was preventing them from finding work as a seasonal migrant-worker or preventing them from working on chicken farms or as domestic housekeepers.

So again, I ask, “why build a humongous and costly wall that would prevent the original Americans from entering the United States”? What purpose would such an endeavor serve? Before you answer this rhetorical question, stop and think for a minute about the United States’ historical “on again, off again” love / hate relationship with ALL poor immigrants who are seeking a better way of life in America.

Although poor undocumented immigrants from “south of the border” are once again the current focus of blame for “all our country’s problems”, the U.S. has from its creation, historically discriminated against a wide variety of poor Asian, Afro-Centric and European immigrants. The problem is that 21st century Americans who advocate building Trump’s Wall, have forgotten that except for the noble Native American, we’re all (one way or another) the great grand-children of immigrants.

Part 2 of “America’s love / hate relationship with poor immigrants” takes a closer, more detailed look at how some-part hateful and some-part frightened people are easily persuaded to follow the anti-immigrant bandwagon, even when the person they’re trying to keep out is a distant relative.

Part 2

American Immigration History 201

At the turn of the 20th century the United States population was approximately 60 million strong. The American Industrial Revolution was in full swing and the need of cheap labor that manned factories, coal mines, railroads and mills were in high demand. Demographically, Native Americans for the most part were conquered and forced to re-locate further west while Blacks that were former slaves were left alone and left unprotected by the federal government to survive the subjection that was created / caused by southern state's Jim Crow laws.

So, if newly freed slaves and Native Americans were not the preferred choice for employers who were desperately in need of skilled and unskilled labor for a rapidly growing America, then where would American business owners turn to for this new labor force? The answer was Europe.

Since Europe was considered by most American business owners as being an acceptable reservoir for America's future labor force, the next question that should be asked is, "who exactly were these Europeans and what were their socio-economic status"? Additionally, the question should be raised if particular / certain ethnicities from Europe were more routinely targeted for discrimination by pockets of Americans than other "more acceptable" Europeans.

In 1907, the United States Senate, under intense pressure from groups like the Immigration Restriction League, formed the Dillingham Commission to study the origins and consequences of immigration.

In a series of reports published in 1910 and 1911, the Dillingham Commission published a report that insinuated that a critical shift in European immigration patterns was the direct cause for a rise in social and economic problems in the United States. Let’s fast-forward to 2017.... does this rhetoric sound familiar?

Per reports from the Dillingham Commission, prior to the 1880s, most immigrants entering the United States had arrived from northern and western Europe. However, after the 1880s, the Commission reported that "inferior" migrants from places in southeastern Europe, such as Austria--Hungary, Russia, Italy, Turkey, Lithuania, Romania, and Greece, increasingly dominated European immigration.

In the end, the Commission's 42-volume report placed the blame for the United States festering problems on these new immigrants from southeastern Europe and recommended that the federal government use literary tests to prevent poor and uneducated immigrants from entering the country and causing further social and economic unrest. Does this rhetoric sound familiar? In the U.S. there's an old saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same".

Map of Mexico before Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Mexicans and their definition of the U.S. border

Between 1900 and 1930, more than one million Mexicans came north to work in the United States. During this time frame, there were few guards and fewer records kept at the border. Americans were more concern with immigrants who came by sea, not over land.

After the Mexican Revolution began in 1910, the United States government set up a few more immigration restrictions, but even after American troops invaded northern Mexico in pursuit of Mexican revolutionary Francisco Villa (who had attacked a border town), Mexicans could cross the border without restriction, that is, after being washed and checked for infectious diseases.

As late as 1926, when the U.S. had virtually closed the door on immigration from Europe and Asia, the head of the Immigration Bureau told the press that Mexicans could enter the United States without difficulties. Even illegal immigrants, if caught, were only asked to pay a $18 fee and taken to the border, so that they could re-enter legally.

Mexican immigrants also viewed the border as being open. In a report generated in 1922 by the U.S. Secretary of Labor, the report indicated that the average unskilled Mexican worker who crossed into the United States from various border locations did not consider themselves an illegal alien. By 1930, Mexican immigrants could be found as far north and east as Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi. But the great majority were in the Southwest, in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

It was only natural that Mexicans felt as though parts of the southwest United States was an extension of their own homeland, after all, much of the U.S. southwest had been Mexican territory until the United States conquered it by military force in 1848.

Regardless of how the average Mexican felt, the truth was that the U.S. welcomed Mexican immigrants as temporary workers, not permanent citizens. A 1911 report to the U.S. Congress claimed that Mexicans "are not easily assimilated, [but] this is of no very great importance as long as most of them return to their native land. In the case of the Mexican, he is less desirable as a citizen than as a laborer."

The reality of poor immigrants and U.S. economics

So, in the same context of how poor immigrants from southeastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century was forced to contend with prejudices that were largely based on our country's shrinking resources, today in 2017, Mexicans and other Latin Americans are too forced to contend with similar prejudices that are based on the lack of economic resources.

Old prejudices are current prejudices and the more things change, the more they remain the same. It’s a fact, when bills cannot be paid and the American family’s standard of living begins to decline, it becomes easier for the rational to become irrational while searching for economic relief and scapegoats. In the end, poor and uneducated immigrants, be they from Mexico, Haiti or Albania in lieu of today's economic climate, are considered, "persona non grata". American history proves this point.

In summary, I wonder if the words that are engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty that once drew tens of millions of poor immigrants to New York's Ellis Island in hope of a better life, hold any real significance in the West Wing of the White House? What Americans are now experiencing is a revised edition of The Immigration Game. A game whose rules are being written by people who wish to move the United States backwards instead of forward. Dark clouds are blocking the sun and they reek of fascism.

Lady Liberty crying

Le Fin (The End)

Gregory Boyce

Gregory Boyce

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