Immigration: Newcomers carry America’s secret

  • Article by: Peter Rothstein
  • Updated: September 30, 2013 - 7:48 AM

Half of all Americans can trace their family history to someone who passed through Ellis Island. Other than our Native American citizens, each of us is an immigrant or descendant of immigrants.

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erikkengaardSep. 29, 13 8:44 PM

When Ellis Island was in operation, we did not have Food Stamps, EITC, Medicaid and dozens of other welfare programs. We did have land - enough that we could offer 160 acres to those who could homestead it. Today we have welfare, and all the good residential land is built on. Young people graduate from college, burdened by debt, can't get jobs, and even if they could, wouldn't be able to buy a house. The last thing we need are more people.

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pumiceSep. 29, 13 8:58 PM

Excellent piece, peter rothstein. We can use a reminder that every new wave of immigrants was met with the same "dehumanizing language and vitriol" as the preceding wave had been met. We can also use a reminder that some of our ancestors arrived long before those from Italy, Ireland, Scandinavia, Asia--even before those from England and the Netherlands. Others were brought forcibly to this continent and subjected to generations of injustice. For them America's secret has been dark and America's tantalizing "promise" has been elusive.

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butchmcSep. 29, 13 9:31 PM

The almost tragic irony of this author's misunderstanding of the issue is that Ellis Island was a LEGAL immigration processing center - many were turned way. Today's debate is not about immigrants, but rather illegal aliens. In fact, if the illegal aliens of today- who burden the taxpayers by straining our healthcare, educational, criminal, and municipal systems -only bothered to show the same respect for our nation's civility as the legal immigrants who made this nation great, then we wouldn't even be having this discussion, as misguided as it may be.

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davehougSep. 29, 13 9:51 PM

All the people who ever passed thru Ellis Island while it was in operation over the years is about 12 million. The estimate of current illegal population is 12 million. Think of the impact a few generations have on the % of population.

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owatonnabillSep. 30, 13 6:56 AM

Anyone here remember the movie Tombstone? One recalls Sheriff Behan introducing himself to Wyatt Earp as, among other things, "chairman of the non-partisan anti-Chinese league". Same S(tuff), different day. Owatonnabill is highly displeased that our government has turned a blind eye to a problem that is already chomping us in the shorts in a big way and promises only to do so in a far bigger way in the future, but he does NOT blame the people who are taking advantage of our government's malfeasance. There are quite a few modern-day equivalents to the "non-partisan anti-Chinese league" of Sheriff Behan's day and most of them are just as rooted in ignorance and prejudice as those of 100 or more years ago. But of all the immigrants (legal and illegal) who are in our country today the vast majority are here because of one thing and one thing only: a better life for themselves and their families. We can fault our government (and we should) but who can fault such a motivation? We need to insist that our government act definitively to end the problem of illegal immigration, but of those already here--well, let's not forget that the bean-walkers and slaughterhouse workers of today will be the doctors, lawyers and politicians of tomorrow. Immigrants of whatever color, ethnicity, nationality or legal status all have the potential to be as good Americans, and in many cases more so, as any of the rest of us. Let's not forget that fact. Rather than wasting our efforts in modern-day anti-Chinese leagues, we should be working together WITH these people, for a better America for all of us.

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pumiceSep. 30, 13 7:25 AM

Re: "Immigrants of whatever color, ethnicity, nationality or legal status all have the potential to be as good Americans ... as any of the rest of us." Bravo, owatonnabill! Bravissimo, owatonnabill's Spousal Unit!

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rlundl02Sep. 30, 13 8:09 AM

While I am against "dehumanizing language and vitriol," I am in favor of people complying with the law, as those immigrants who came through Ellis Island did. If you're first act of becoming an American is breaking our laws by coming here illegally, then you mock and insult those struggling Ellis Island immigrants and all contemporary immigrants who strived to become Americans by the the book.

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parn0015Sep. 30, 13 8:09 AM

Sorry, but Somali terrorists who won't learn English are different than the people who came here through Ellis Island.

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joelwisch2Sep. 30, 13 2:10 PM

By the way.. two glaring errors in this article. The invaders are not immigrants.. they are illegal aliens, and they are called that the world over. The Americans had no original inhabitants. Every single person who is here began in a much different place. There are NO 'natives' to the Americas.

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rlundl02Sep. 30, 13 2:56 PM

@joelwish2 I was born and raised in the U.S. My ancestors busted prairie sod. I'm a native American. You're wrong.

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