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Immigration Reform: What Exactly Are We Reforming?

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 14: Immigration reform advocates stage a demonstration, organized by the New York Immigration Coalition, outside a detention facility run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 14, 2013 in New York City. Demonstrators staged the event ahead of Fathers’ Day to draw attention to the thousands of undocumented immigrant fathers deported by ICE and separated from their families in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Another immigration bill is winging it’s way through Congress. Will it be another blanket amnesty bill or some form of hybrid, piecemeal legislation?

The United States of America was created and built by immigrants. No one can dispute that. At the turn of the 19th century there was a mass migration of European’s searching for the promise of the American dream. But as we all know, there’s a very thin line between the American dream and the American nightmare.

Self-Correction

I’ve always said that the great thing about the United States is that we are self-correcting. We corrected slavery; and we improved working conditions for all Americans. But, at the same time we often seem to be a living, breathing contradiction. We hold marriage in the highest regard, unless it’s gay marriage. We want cheap labor, but not illegal labor. We want healthcare for all, but not cheap watered down healthcare for all. We seem to have a tough time defining exactly what we want. Immigration is just one more slippery slope that could go tragically wrong if not handled correctly.

 Then and Now

The immigrants that built this nation didn’t come here to bring their respective countries to the US. They came here searching for a better life. They came looking for an opportunity; not a hand out.

I grew up in a small southern Illinois German community, a town with a population of about 5,800 people. German names were everywhere yet I can’t remember anyone speaking with a German accent or even speaking German on the street.

Election ballots were not printed in German, the local hardware store didn’t have signs in multiple languages. If you came to this country you were expected to read, write and speak English which at that time was the unofficial language of the US.

What Changed?

When did we feel the need to introduce the hyphenated American? And why is “American” always the second part of the hyphenation? If I have to be hyphenated shouldn’t I at least be an American-German? Are there Chinese-Australians, Italian-Britain’s? Are there African-French? Sounds a little silly when you put it in that context.

The result of hyphenation is your identity is seriously diluted. You are pigeonholed and labeled by society to fit a politically correct norm. I can tell you this — anyone who refers to me as a German-American will be quickly corrected.

I was born in America and that makes me an American — period. No hyphenation required. Who knows if my ancestors moved to German from someplace else? I could be a Swedish-Italian-Norwegian-French-Spanish-Scottish-Antarctican American for all I know.

Some Final Thoughts

The German immigrants that settled in my small town didn’t pick and choose the parts of America they liked best. They didn’t say, “We like the freedoms but not the language so please print everything so we can read it in our own language.” They didn’t say, “We like your Fourth of July, but we prefer Bastille Day so please start celebrating that instead.”

They made a decision to leave their old lives behind and embrace a new idea. A country of opportunity, where they were free to flourish and achieve their goals and dreams. Was it hard? You bet it was. There were no handouts to immigrants. No welfare, no job training, no freebies. There was mass discrimination of Irish, Italian, Black and Asians. Yet they kept coming.

Contrast that with today’s immigrant. “Where do I get my housing allowance?” “How do I apply for food stamps?” “Where’s my free healthcare?” What happened to the American dream?

Is there a number I can call to find out? Will I have to press one for English?

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