The USA is a nation of immigrants . . . and their descendants. The only folks who can claim their family as always having been Americans are Indians . . . what are commonly referred to as Native Americans. In spite of that truth, history shows that immigration has largely been a struggle legislatively for our young nation.
The United States experienced major waves of immigration during the colonial era, the first part of the 19th-Century and from the 1880s to 1920. Many immigrants came to America seeking greater economic opportunity, while some, such as the Pilgrims in the early 1600s, arrived in search of religious freedom. From the 17th– to 19th-Centuries, hundreds of thousands of African slaves came to America against their will. The first significant federal legislation restricting immigration was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Individual states regulated immigration prior to the 1892 opening of Ellis Island, the country’s first federal immigration station. New laws in 1965 ended the quota system that favored European immigrants, and today, the majority of the country’s immigrants hail from Asia and Latin America.
As the 20th-Century arrived there was a great wave of immigrants from across Europe over the first couple of decades. Congress became concerned over the large numbers arriving and slowed the process down. In truth, the 20th-Century will be historically ear-marked as book-ends of two decades of immigration, as the last two decades also saw another large wave of immigrants from South American countries . . . they came as illegals by entering the country unlawfully. Unlike the immigrants from Europe, this group from the South has been less willing to assimilate into the American culture . . . hanging onto their own flags, languages, and cultures. Today, there is a serious legislative struggle over what to do with these folks’ children . . . who were brought here as children. The determining factor about immigrant’s children has always been that a child born inside the USA was an American citizen just because of that birth. That is not the case with these children whose future status is currently being debated.
After months of failed negotiations, the Senate voted down four immigration proposals on Thursday of last week. The bill that had President Donald Trump’s blessing received the fewest votes. The only comprehensive bipartisan proposal on the table not only failed to win enough votes, but was also panned by Trump’s administration. The week was meant to be dedicated to robust and open immigration debate — a promise Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made to Senate Democrats to end the three-day government shutdown in January. But what was supposed to result in an immigration bill ultimately ended in only an hour and a half of actual action on the Senate floor, and nothing to show for it.
The Trump administration has pledged to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by March 5, a date by which Congress has to pass some kind of legislative fix for the roughly 690,000 undocumented immigrants whose legal protections will be put in limbo. The issue is left unsolved and the Senators have left Washington for a break. Who knows what will happen with these DACA folks?
This thing called immigration is a messy thing . . . but then it has pretty much always been messy. The truth is that our ancestors pretty much just came in large numbers and overwhelmed the Indians, and today the folks from the South are pretty much doing the same thing to us.