I am descended from immigrants. I guess that can go without saying. In some sense we all are. The difference is when and how we got here. Some came willingly, some in chains. None of us are from here, no one, not even those known as “native Americans”. The current science shows that all of us originated in a small part of Africa then spread out over the entire globe.
My roots go deep. Through my father’s side of the family I trace back to the Mayflower, arriving in 1620. Through my mom’s to French Canada, arriving in 1644 in what it now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. I am a descendent of a witch hung in Salem, of Asa Porter who fought in the Revolutionary War and who is buried in Marlborough, NH. Part of me is from more recent arrivals, coming from Ireland via England at the start of the last century. In all, I have forebears from England, Ireland, France, and Scotland. Perhaps there are more that I don’t know about. In some sense my family epitomizes the American “melting pot”, as least in a Northern European sense.
So why describe my history? Because if anyone has the “right” to reject the arrival of new people to this country I suppose that would include me. My roots run deep. My family has been here virtually since the birth of what became our nation, they fought to create it, and to preserve it through many wars spanning our history. But I reject the notion that I, that anyone, has the right to close to the doors to this country, to deny other the opportunity to be part of what and who we are.
When I look at the history of our country I see opportunities created because of the doors we opened, that we kept open. Much of our modern world depends on the work of Nicola Tesla. Had Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein been denied entry then much of our knowledge of the nuclear world would have been delayed, perhaps never developed. Wernher von Braun got us to the moon. These are just a few examples of famous immigrants. Every day others take care of our children, pick our fruits and vegetables, program our computers and phones, build our houses, roads, and bridges, work on scientific research creating a future that includes robots, self-driving cars, and more. The immigrants coming to our country are more than “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, they are our future, our doctors, our scientists, our teachers and more.
So yes, I reject the anti-immigrant politics of hate. I count newly arrived immigrants to be among my friends and co-workers. I, we have a better world because those who came before us kept our country open to all. The politics of hate is not new. Not long ago signs reading “No Irish Need Apply” could be found (a friend from New Jersey said there it was “No Polish Need Apply”). It some ways we are not far removed from that world, from those words. Donald Trump is president because too many of us became complacent, forgetting that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” We’ve been reminded that the fight isn’t over.