Independence Day! The 4th of July! In the United States of America, this is the day that we have picnics, eat too much, drink too much, wave flags, watch displays of fireworks and generally spend the day beating our collective chest in celebration of freedom. We sing patriotic songs, pledge our allegiance to the flag, wrap ourselves in red, white and blue and proclaim our patriotism to the world, often with a beer in one hand and a flag in the other.
Living now as a resident immigrant in Mexico and previously residing as in immigrant in Ecuador, I have lived on the “other side” of the immigration issue in foreign lands. As an immigrant in these nations, I have never been spat upon, cursed at, told to “Speak our language or leave”, threatened or in any way made to feel unworthy. In fact, Diane and I have been welcomed in both Ecuador and Mexico. Our efforts to speak Spanish have been supported with friendly corrections and assistance whenever we goofed! We have been invited to participate in local celebrations and included in social gatherings. Small children often gathered ‘round us in Ecuador eager to practice their English.
In America, there is a loud and vocal movement against immigration and therefore, against immigrants in general. Recently, this movement has horrifically spilled over onto unaccompanied, immigrant children.
The United States of America was once a welcoming haven for immigrants seeking a better life. We erected a statue on Liberty Island with a welcoming message to new arrivals. “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It is clear that there are those who would have us recant that invitation believing that their accidental birth…their tumble from the cosmos allowing them to be born in the United States of America, grants them special privilege over those who may intentionally choose America as their home. That is a sad, narrow, and egocentric perspective on humanity, fortunately not shared by many.
I am a very lucky man. My tumble from the cosmos allowed my birth in the United States of America which allows me to live anywhere on the planet that I choose…as an immigrant. The United States of America is in the process of rolling up the welcome mat. In fact, on a per capita basis, the United States now admits fewer immigrants than half the countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)
Currently, it is estimated that roughly 13% of the U.S. population were born in other nations and immigrated to the U.S. These folks have jumped through all the hoops (which by the way, are considerably more difficult than most other nations) and the vast majority lead productive lives, contributing to the economy and social structure of our communities.
What the hell are Americans afraid of? I can only guess that those most vehemently opposed to immigration in the U.S. have not traveled outside the U.S. to any great extent. Just a hunch!