Our Current Treatment of Immigrants Forgets Our Own Recent History of Immigration

Since its earliest days, America has been the land of immigrants. Unless someone is Native American, most Americans can trace to ancestry to at least one person who immigrated to America from another country.

The problem is that some of us have a very limited memory of that immigration.

One of the cornerstones of Donald Trump’s election platform was the hatred of immigrants, especially immigrants of color. Since he took office last January, he has continued to spew the same lies and could now force out of the country hardworking and respectful individuals, who are Americans all but on paper.

When the earthquake destroyed the country of Haiti in 2010, then President Obama offered temporary U.S. residency via the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. Since then, 58,000 Haitians have rebuilt their lives with their families in America. Trump’s administration now wants to send them back to Haiti, which has yet to completely recover from the earthquake six years later.

In Central America, a humanitarian crisis in 2014 sent hundreds of thousands of immigrants, particularly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, to the United States. Trump and his administration would again seem to be more than thrilled to send them back to their home countries.

The stereotypes about immigrants are nothing new. While the days of employment signs stating “No Irish Need Apply” are long gone, the sentiment remains in Trump and his supporters’ rhetoric. The belief that that immigrants will take jobs from native born Americans has been proven to be a false, for example. Many immigrants who come here start at the bottom of the ladder, working as a dishwasher in a restaurant or picking vegetables under a hot sun. Neither of these are exactly jobs that a native-born American would take, if they had a choice.

Line 133 of this 1885 immigration record notes Donald Trump’s grandfather as “Friedr. Trumpf.” age 16, born in Kallstadt, Germany. He later worked as a barber.

What Trump has conveniently forgotten is that he is a descendant of immigrants. His paternal grandfather, Frederick Trump immigrated from Germany to America in the 1880’s. His mother, Mary Anne Trump (neé MacLeod) arrived on American shores in 1930 and worked as a domestic servant.

And, I too, am a product of immigration. Around the turn of the 20th century, my forebears left the poverty, hunger, and prejudice that was part of their daily lives in Eastern Europe for new lives in America. They joined the millions who left their families and their native lands for what my great-grandparents called “der goldene medina,” or the golden land.

While I agree that immigrants should come to this country through legal methods, I disagree with the harsh treatment those who are already here—often originally under a legal status—are receiving. If they are productive, hardworking and are not causing trouble, why not let them stay? Would it really kill us to live up to the ideals we say that we are fighting for?

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