Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Immigration part deux

Story time, Kats and Kittens...

Once upon a time there were a few families that lived in Europe. Two lived in Italy, one lived in Germany, and one was a misplaced Irish family who fled Ireland during the Potato Famine to live in neighboring Scotland, who hadn't their devotion to the spud and therefore had other things to eat. In the early part of the twentieth century, all four families decided to immigrate to America.

It wasn't easy. There was the long boat crossing, which was expensive, especially considering they were treated like chattel. They couldn't all come at once--in some of the families the boys came first to find work and would send for their parents and sisters later, when they had the money for the passage. This could take years. But eventually all four families ended up in America--the Italians on Mulberry Street in New York, and the Germans and the Irish, somewhere else. All four eventually ended up in Pittsburgh, where the Irish/Scottish daughter married the German son and the daughter and son of the two Italian families married. They had children, and eventually two of those children got married and produced.... moi .

Yes friends, like the rest of you, I am an immigrant. But do you see the difference between the above story and the stories we're hearing today at these rallies, attending by thousands across the country? I sure do. My relatives, and probably yours, went through Ellis Island. They came here legally, worked hard, learned English (!), put up with all kinds of crap because they were Catholic, and some of them were Irish , God forbid. But they got married and produced American citizens who knew English and married other American citizens who produced more citizens...until I am the third generation born here. I've completed college. My brother's in college. My grandfather is a composer and a retired school orchestra teacher. My grandma raised 8 kids on one salary. My dad's father sold insurance to Italians in Pittsburgh. We all did pretty well for ourselves. None of us are on the dole, at least.

Yet these people, these "undocumented workers', say that we're anti-immigrant now. Wrong. We're anti- illegal immigrant. There's a big difference. My relatives didn't try to sneak in Boston Harbor and work under the radar. They did it the right way. There's a right and a wrong way to do this. If you want to be a citizen, do it properly. And don't say that you don't have time. Thousands of my countrymen from Ireland managed to immigrate here during the famine and they knew about not having time. They gnawed on quadruple-boiled bones to keep hunger at bay and ate grass until their mouths were green and still they starved.

We are a nation of immigrants, this is true. But the older ones assimilated. They became part of our fabric. They didn't try for multi-lingual signs, multiple options on the ATMs, and force us to accomodate them .

We are to show them justice and mercy and compassion. But at the same time we cannot advocate the reckless breaking of our laws. What's the point of having laws if we don't enforce them? And how can these people be good citizens if they're breaking the laws of their new country right off the bat?

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