We are all immigrants

Aug. 31, 2007
"A man's greatest enemies are his own apathy and stubborness." --Frank Tyger There's been a huge amount of debate -- much of it couched in violent terms -- about immigration, especially what to do about illegal immigrants. This is an extremely ...

"A man's greatest enemies are his own apathy and stubborness." --Frank Tyger

There's been a huge amount of debate -- much of it couched in violent terms -- about immigration, especially what to do about illegal immigrants. This is an extremely important debate for our nation to engage in, but doubly so for trucking ,as this industry struggles to find people willing to get into the driver's seat.

I am NOT proposing that trucking engage in the wholesale hiring illegals here, nor that we put new Americans behind the wheel that lack a working knowledge of English or proper driving skills (though that's been happening quite a lot, I am disgusted to say). But what's been lacking in the entire debate over illegal immigration is context -- the critical fact that EVERY American is an immigrant. We all came to this country from somewhere else, more often than not fleeing economic malaise, war, hunger, second-class citizenship, etc. And a very large segment of our people came here without a choice, as slaves -- a blot upon our nation's history that will never go away.

But here we all are -- and aside from Native Americans (who through an unlucky accident are almost universally known as 'Indians') we all come from immigrant stock. So before we so self-righteously condemn illegals in this country, we should pause and reflect that, you know, maybe our own ancestors might have shaded the truth here and there to get over the border. Yes, the tide of illegals is rising and that must be addressed, and yes they include criminals and other n'er do wells that are putting a strain on our society. But there are also countless upon countless others that are seeking the universal dream -- a better life -- and are frustrated by the beaurecratic nightmare that is our government's immigration policy.

It is also a huge testament, I think, to us as a polyglot people that's getting slammed every day in the global media and our own journalists here at home for countless crimes and errors (more immagined than real most of the time) that people STILL want to get in here -- no matter what the risk. Because this country still offers anyone willing to learn and work hard unlimited opportunity.

Look at Johnnie Bryan Hunt, who recently passed away -- could a chicken farmer's son, and a fifth grade dropout to boot, create a billion-dollar trucking enterprise like J.B. Hunt ... in England? Or France? Or Russia? And THOSE are what we call 'developed nations,' yet they are places where social and economic class distinctions still put restrictions on people.

My own family came from what was considered the 'lower rungs' of society, escaping not only poverty but incarceration and possibly death. For example, my dad's mom (my paternal grandmother) came from Roscommon on the west coast of Ireland from a family of poor farmers. At the time she emigrated, British mercenaries -- the hated and feared 'Black & Tans' -- were combing her part of the countryside looking for Irish rebels. Then there's my mom's dad (my maternal grandfather) whose family WALKED from Kiev, Ukraine, to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905 to escape the Czarist pogroms against the Jews. My great-grandfather himself was a Rabbi, meaning his family was right in the crosshairs for all kinds of unpleasentness. But they were lucky -- they left before the Nazis came.

So, yes, debate immigration policy and yes let's find a way to deal with illegal immigration -- preferrably using deportation as a weapon of last resort. There are countless millions of immigrants -- like my forebears -- that only want a chance to make something for themselves and their families, which will rub off for the good on our country. Send the criminals and related bad apples back whence they came, but let's get the rest started on citizenship so they can help keeping making our country one of the best in the world.

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