We Are All Immigrants
And Its Time To Stop The Scapegoating.
The early Pilgrims came to escape religious persecution in England. They came to practice their religion. They had no permission from the Native Americans to settle here and ultimately destroy their tribes, their communities and their way of life. They did not even have the permission of the British Government to leave England.
The Irish came to escape poverty, starvation and oppression by the British. The English Catholics came to escape persecution from English Protestants. The peace loving Quakers came to practice their religion free from persecution. The Germans came to escape poverty and starvation in Germany. The Jews came to escape the pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, the Holocaust and seemingly endless religious persecution across Europe. The Italians came to escape hunger and starvation in their home country as did the Poles, the Serbs, the Greeks, the Norwegians and the Swedes. African Americans were brought here as slaves to work the cotton, sugar and tobacco plantations in the South. Chinese were brought here to build railroads and river levees in the West. Japanese came to work the plantations in Hawaii and farms in California. Mexicans worked the land in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico before and after the Mexican War and the annexations of their land by the US. More recently, Cubans have some to escape political repression; Haitians have come due to natural disasters; El Salvadorans and Guatemalans have come to escape civil war; Vietnamese and Laotians have resettled in the aftermath of Civil Wars and American invasions, and Hondurans have come due to natural disasters and death squads. Muslims, Christians, Catholics and Jews have all come to escape religious and political persecution and death. Iraqis, Armenians, Iranians, Somalis, Colombians and Afghans have all come to escape Civil Wars and imminent threats of death. We have done our share in destabilizing some nations, generating and exacerbating violence and conflict, contributing to large refugee flows into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa.
Some immigrants were brought here in chains; some came for economic opportunity; some came to escape persecution, starvation and death in their homelands; some came to fight for freedom. All spoke very different languages and came from diverse cultures and over time have assimilated. All have been treated badly at times by those immigrants who came before them, and more than a few have in turn treated badly those immigrants who came after them. There were riots against the Irish in New York, and the KKK and the Know Nothings targeted immigrants with terrible violence; Italian and Russian immigrants were targeted after the First World War. Mexican, Chinese and Japanese immigrants were horribly treated here in California.
Right now, there are four or five different groups of immigrants in peril. The ones we hear most about are the 700,000 Dreamers who came here as young children, but were not lawfully admitted. They may be deported beginning in early March depending on the decisions of Congressional Republicans and President Trump over the next month.
Coming right behind are 60,000 Haitians who are here with Temporary Protected Status due to earthquakes, hurricanes and widespread civil unrest in their country. The President has given them 18 months from last November to pack their belongings, leave their families and return home to a country still beset with enormous poverty and living challenges. The 2010 earthquake killed about 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless out of a total population of 10 million.
Under President George H W Bush, Temporary Protected Status was extended to El Salvadorans who had been impacted by a massive earthquake that caused 1.3 million people to lose their homes. In addition El Salvadorans were dying and being tortured in the nation’s Civil War. President Trump has given 200,000 El Salvadorans 18 months from this January to pack up, leave their US born children and return home to a country still beset with enormous poverty and violence – a country that many have not lived in for over two decades.
Family reunification allows a legally admitted US resident with refugee or asylum status to apply to bring in their spouse, their young children or their parents. Sixty to seventy percent of all legal immigrants come in through the family reunification program. President Trump would like to end this policy, which he refers to as chain migration, which he mistakenly claims allows individuals to apply to bring in their siblings and grandparents. This is a little complex. He is actually referring to a different program known as “family sponsorship”. So keep in mind “family reunification” means spouses, young children or parents. “Family sponsorship” refers to siblings, adult children and grandparents and is numerically quite restricted. There are numerical caps and large lengthy backlogs of individuals applying for family reunification and family sponsorship. The priority is family reunification as this builds on the family and strengthens the bonds for success in the economy and the broader community.
Diversity lottery refers to a program under which individuals may apply for 50,000 green card (legal permanent resident) slots. About 15 million apply annually and 50,000 are chosen at random, then vetted and screened. The purpose was to give foreign nationals whose countries had low rates of immigration recently the opportunity to apply. The Irish used it quite a lot in its earliest inception. Your chances of admission are less than 1%. President Trump would like to end this program.
Caps on legal immigration. There is an overall cap of 675,000. There are per country caps of 7% of total immigrants. There is a family based immigration cap of 480,000. There is an employment based immigration cap of 140,000. There is a refugee and asylees cap of 85,000. There is a diversity lottery cap of 50,000. About one million legal immigrants are processed every year, of which 600,000 are status adjustments for individuals already living and residing in the US. The total US population is 325 million, of whom 7% are immigrant legal permanent residents or undocumented residents.
President Trump would like to cut legal immigration in half and switch from family reunification to a merit based system, which would favor immigrants with lots of cash to invest and/or extraordinary abilities (i.e. stable geniuses). How would your family have fared under such a system when it immigrated to the US? I’m not so sure that there are a lot of well-heeled Scandinavians with extraordinary skills seeking to relocate here, could be wrong about that.
Undocumented immigrants refers to 11 million individuals who live in the shadows without green cards or any other legal protections. Virtually all work. Many work on farms, food processing, residential construction, restaurants, hotels, car washes, day labor, home cleaning, janitorial and other low wage unskilled labor. These are not aliens; they are your fellow human beings; you see them on the street every day. They pay taxes and they are not eligble for most public benefits. President Trump campaigned on his promise to deport them all. California and many other states' economies would be in shambles if he actually did so
You might want to communicate your views to your Congresspersons on the subject of federal immigration policy. Now would be a very good time. The clock is ticking.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin