Immigrants helped make America great, but there’s a right way to enter this country

Published 8:31 am Monday, November 26, 2018

The wave of thousands of Central American migrants is slowly making its way toward the United States. Most come from Guatemala and Honduras, some seeking safety and all seeking a better life.
Many have already reached the southern border, others are just miles away.
If they reach the U.S. southern border, estimates are that most will claim asylum as their justification for entry. It is questionable where such declarations will satisfy border laws, but if they do, we can expect many more thousands to follow in their footsteps.
The sight of these men, women and children is compelling. Clearly they are enduring hardships, although help is being offered along their travels. Still, their journey is a powerful demonstration of peoples’ determination to enter what they regard as a kind of “promised land.”
Clearly, the immigration system is broken, and living in denial doesn’t serve the interests of families, American workers, law enforcement or the nation’s long-term economic needs.
America was settled by immigrants — the first being those brave men and women who came to America on the Mayflower, fleeing their mother county, England, on the grounds of religious persecution.
Carter County and Northeast Tennessee have benefitted from the labors of men and women from other countries, the first being the Germans who built the Bemberg plant in Elizabethton and operated it for several years. Many of these German families settled in Elizabethton and made invaluable contributions to the community.
Through the years, others have come from Mexico and other places as farm laborers, roofers, etc.
History has witnessed the fleeing of Cubans to America. They came by boat, others on homemade rafts, some swimming in shark-infested waters.
In the 1970s, there was an influx of Vietnamese to America following the Vietnam War.
Most came to this nation legally. However, illegal crossings of our borders are so frequent that today there are an estimated 12 million people in the United States that are politely called “undocumented immigrants.” Most live in the shadows, always in fear of the law.
None of us know what these people who have fled their homeland and come to America are leaving behind. And the immigrants do not know what they face in America. All they know is what is in front of them has to be better than what they are leaving.
America is a nation of immigrants — whatever the administration may say — but people of colour have too often been treated as less than human, incapable of the same feelings and undeserving of the same rights; including that of family life. Slaves saw their children sold to other owners; Native Americans were snatched from their parents and placed in institutions. The Chinese Exclusion Act splintered families.
Plenty of smart people have offered sensible answers to the immigration problem. Their suggestions, sadly, have been ignored by a feckless Congress. For too many in both parties, immigration is a handy campaign tool, useful for getting elected. Finding solutions is far from their minds.
We do need to send a message to the world: There’s a wrong way and a right way to enter America. You’re welcome here to visit or to immigrate through legal channels. But we won’t tolerate further violations of our immigration laws. Come here as the law prescribes, get your green card, assimilate to American culture, obey its laws, and become a citizen. That’s the route that made America a success.

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