Somehow, without even noticing, we have ironically lost the values that are what make people want to come to the United States in the first place. Put another way, it is not the shouted threats about a wall that will "make our country great, again," it is the understanding of how much the diversity, energy, and substance immigrants have historically contributed to our country, enriching it all the way from the economy to the cuisine. They are already here in numbers that exceed some countries' population--11 million--living among their neighborhoods, communities, co-workers, friends and families. Americans by definition-- if not by name.
Economists have overwhelmingly viewed immigration, including illegal immigration, as a positive for the U.S.economy. Both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants make the average American better off. And a study by the Cato Institute found that the legalization of illegal workers in the US would result in a net increase of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 180 billion over 10 years.
But as policy is argued in the Supreme Court, presidential campaigns, the media and across kitchen tables, the impact on human lives is the elephant in the room.
Like the house painter supporting his disabled wife and twin 14-year-old sons by painting houses days and repairing roads on a crew, nights.
The mother who sent her daughter to college by cleaning offices for fifteen years. The couple with their six-month-old baby squeezed among forty-three other refugees in a stifling truck, only to be discovered and sent back to Mexico without the 300 American dollars fee they had accumulated, dollar by dollar for the privilege.
It is a history of shame.
*The Immigration Act of 1917 restricted immigration from Asia.
*In 1921 Congress passed The Emergency Quota Act and the Immigration Act of 1924 which further restricted immigrants from Southern and Easter Europe particularly Jews, Italians and Slavs.
*In 1936, nine hundred and six German Jews aboard the ocean liner St. Louis. requested asylum from certain death at the hands of Hitler. The American government turned them down. In fact, most of the Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis were refused sanctuary by the U.S.
*In 1982 Chinese laborers suffering declining wages immigrated to the U.S. for a better life. In the first significant law that restricted immigration to the U.S., The Chinese Exclusion Act turned them away, preventing all Chinese immigration for 10 years.
*In 2016 thousands of desperate people have fled into Texas from El Salvador in flight from violence, crime, drugs, corruption, a troubled economy. And were turned away.
Over 16 million immigrants came through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954. Their stories are legend. Arriving virtually penniless without knowing the language or the country, they were determined to make a better life for themselves and their children. Living in crowded tenements they discovered that the streets in America weren't paved with gold, after all, working long hours in sweatshops cutting and sewing for pennies per piece, pushing carts, hawking everything from shirts to vegetables. Although they barely made a living from all their efforts, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren made America.