In case you missed it or took a much needed break from the 24-hour news cycle, yesterday was billed as “A Day Without Immigrants” that involved a coordinated nationwide strike/boycott by said immigrants to shine a light on their collective positive influence on our culture and economy. Obviously, this was a response to the recent, controversial travel ban and subsequent illegal immigration crackdown by the new tenant living in public housing on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
However, yesterday was also yet another reason why I am so proud of our country. Despite the current campaign to demonize the religion of Islam and people of color from other countries, our core principles of democracy and justice shine even brighter in comparison to far darker hue emanating from a fake tan and fallible yellow coif.
Such principles lead me to the natural question, “Why does such fear and disdain for our immigrant population exist and thrive?”
In 1926, the McKessy family of Limerick, Ireland sailed across the Atlantic only arrive in a country that was also not too fond of immigrants at the time. This was no small jaunt for the McKessy matriarch, especially embarking on such a voyage with ten of her 21 children in tow. They arrived in New York City, via Ellis Island, to a country that still had a thriving “No Irish Need Apply” cottage industry of hatred.
You see, even back then Americans had a fear that this wave of Irish immigration would infringe on job opportunities and negatively affect the economy. Two generations later, I can assure you that this family, like many other immigrant families past and present, have only helped to further enrich this nation of ours. How do I know this for a fact? Well, this is a picture of my family, as my late grandmother is the baby being held on the far right. I can proudly say that our name is still one of many on a plaque displayed on Ellis Island, celebrating the contributions of immigrants.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years, in NYC no less, I have worked side by side with men and women who have risked more than many to live a dream so many of us take for granted. Many of my past coworkers, who I proudly call my friends, are some of the hardest working, kind, and honorable people I have ever known. Before you write off the last statement as hyperbolic (Trumpian hyperbole?) or as some “snowflake” idealism, whatever that so-called slander is meant to imply, please take a moment to reflect on if you yourself have ever had a negative encounter with someone not born in this country.
While there are bad apples of all shapes in sizes in every bunch, I guarantee you that the positives outweigh the negatives, regardless of whatever fear-mongering is currently being peddled.
A majority of the time, undocumented workers work in the jobs most of us never even consider. Making the bare minimum, this segment of our population is exploited by employers who seek to increase their profit margins and only measure humanity by the bottom line. So the next time you hear someone complain about illegal immigrants “stealing” American jobs, please kindly explain that your old high school friend Chad isn’t being overlooked for that highly coveted dishwasher position at your neighborhood bar.
Well, if you are still gung-ho about building an asinine wall (not along Canada by the way) or arbitrarily restricting certain people from entering the country, perhaps you may understand something written by Arthur Miller titled, “The Crucible.”
In the event you fell asleep in English or Theatre classes, it is a fictional story about the Salem witch trials set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1692. Why do I bring this up, dear reader? Well, it is an allegory written to parallel the Red Scare hysteria of Communist influence in 1950s America and it easily could be a stand in for the Brown Scare of the 2000s. You do not need to be John Proctor to see the slippery slope of righteous indignation in the name of “American Values.”
My point, dear reader, is it is the hysteria of groupthink that shapes the mentality of hatred and exclusion, leaving us with only more fear of people whom we do not know well nor share the same language and a fear of people some of us choose not to understand. We are all children of immigrants, one way or another, and it is time to see ourselves in each other.