Thursday, May 9, 2013

This Land is Our Land

I saw a Facebook poster recently that read America Takes Better Care of Its Illegals Than Its Vets. The poster originated from a Facebook site called The Red, White and Blue. The site makes no bones about their political leanings.

My personal assessment of how veterans are treated versus how illegal aliens are treated fails to find favor for the illegal aliens. Veterans have all rights of US citizens or resident aliens. Illegal aliens have no rights of US citizenship unless temporarily obtained by false documents.

This means that veterans can compete with all other US citizens for available employment. Illegal aliens are denied employment for lack of documentation of US citizenship. The illegal aliens’ only option for employment, without falsified documents, is to work for substandard wages wherever they can find illegal employment.

Veterans, when they become employed as civilians, are protected by unemployment benefits, Worker’s Compensation, OSHA and a guaranteed minimum wage. Illegal aliens have none of these guaranteed government sanctioned benefits. In addition, veterans are likely to receive health insurance and retirement benefits from their employers that are not available to illegal aliens.

The only health care option for an illegal alien, other than paying out of pocket, is to seek care at a hospital emergency room where they cannot be refused. That option is equally available to US citizens and resident aliens who may not have health insurance. Maybe there is something that the author of the Facebook poster knows that I don’t.

I believe it is also worth acknowledging that the first illegal aliens to this continent came in the early 17th century on sailing ships from Europe. This is a fact that few contemporary Americans seem to be aware of, much less, agree with. The continent was systematically stolen from the indigenous people by the foreigners.

There is no doubt that the European immigrants and their descendants did more to develop the continent than was being done by the indigenous population at the time. It seems sinful, however, that the two races could not coexist and learn from each other. The land might have been developed without ravishing it, if the two cultures could have worked together.

Four hundred years later, the same race of indigenous people, from the far south of the continent, seek the benefits and wealth of these lands. We call them illegal aliens. There some 12 million of them living in the United States now.

In the first ten years following 1830 approximately 100,000 indigenous people, from what we now call, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi were relocated to what is now the east half of Oklahoma. One need not even do the math. Simply look at a map to fathom what happened in terms of taking people from millions of acres of land and relocating them to some mere thousands of acres. There is something to be learned from the tragic experience of the Trail of Tears.

Without a doubt, there is an illegal immigration problem in the United States. However, even with modern transportation, how could 12 million illegal aliens be repatriated in any practical sense? Second, how do we fill the labor vacuum that they will leave behind? Whether legally employed or not, they do fill a huge labor niche. Third, what is Mexico to do with their repatriated citizens? They certainly haven’t fled to the US to get away from Mexico’s prosperity. You can say that it is their problem but, in fact, it will be a world problem to keep innocent people from starving in refugee camps. 

Last, how is it that Cubans, once they set foot on American soil, are allowed resident alien status in the United States without challenge? What is it that Cubans bring to the United States that makes their illegal immigration tolerable when the Mexican immigration is not?

We should not forget the race of people who were forced to migrate to this continent from Africa. The first of these immigrants to Virginia were treated the same as European indentured servants. After providing labor for a given amount of years they were given freedom and a piece of land for their own. Gradually, however, laws were changed in Virginia to keep African immigrants enslaved indefinitely.

During Abraham Lincoln’s term as president he had hope of returning black Americans to Africa. This notion did not consider the reality that there was no “return” as generations had passed and that made the United States home for these slaves. They were no longer Africans. They were Americans.

The first transcontinental railroad across the US was built with immigrant labor from Mexico, China and Ireland. Freed slaves were also part of the labor force. The mix of nationalities and races not only made America, they are America.

Too many Americans have a narrow view of whom and what made America. How can there be Americans who proudly trace their ancestry to Jamestown, Virginia in the early 17th century without acknowledging that there are Americans who know their ancestry to be centuries before that? How can there be Americans who know their heritage as descendants of immigrants but yet deny the same claim to others.

This land is our land applies to more than a select few. It applies to everyone who contributes, builds, and gives loyalty and fights for our country. The most decorated ethnic group of soldiers in the United States in World War II was of Latino heritage. This land is OUR land!

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