By Aram Zeitounian – Cougar News Contributor
Technically, the land we live on doesn’t belong to anyone. We draw boundaries, build fences, buy real estate, stake out land and sign mortgage agreements; we create our own distinct spaces, and like Monopoly, we have built a system of ownership and marginalization. One can claim that this separatist attitude began as early as 1620 when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, carrying passengers seeking refuge from the oppressive English rule. Arguably, these were the first immigrants—the first “Americans” to begin settling, expanding frontiers, building towns, and sharpening their genocidal tendencies.
As more and more people sought religious freedom in the United States, governance became a necessity and so did property laws, but these are much different than what we are used to today. Back then, an individual staked property by deftly planting flags around the land they wanted. Certainly, there are only so many flags one can plant before running out of room—or running into someone else’s room. You see, immigration comes with a price—and for the Native Americans it was their land and more disturbingly, their scalps.
Today, immigration hasn’t changed all that much. The difference is that the immigrants of the past—the Mayflower settlers and their clans—are no longer killing off those who already occupied the land they wanted. No, now they are writing laws to prevent others from entering the country that has afforded them the American Dream. Their argument is that there aren’t enough riches to go around, but the truth is that there would be no growth in the United States without the vital contributions of immigrants who have used their talents for the betterment of this great country.
As citizens, we need to be empathetic and realize that people crossing over our border may be doing so out of sheer desperation. We make concessions for Political Asylum and hardship—we are even recruiting illegal immigrants to fight our wars. We offer them work and student Visas and then expect the people who have been living here for years, who have established friendships and familial bonds to simply go back home. This assumption is unrealistic and dangerous. It segregates the United States from neighboring countries and diminishes the global relationships we try so hard to build. After 9/11, immigration has become even more precarious. Maileen Hamto in her article, “My Turn: Being American,” states, “Throughout our history as a nation, fear and apprehension about ‘the other’—especially in times of economic uncertainty—have fueled anti-immigration sentiment” (495). After war, after recession, after depression, immigrants seem to suffer the consequences. This has been proven countless times throughout our sordid history. The Africans, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Easterners, and Mexicans have all been targets of discriminatory practices based on circumstances out of their control. As a nation, we need to understand the plight of these immigrants and realize that our great country would not be what it is today without their hard work.
Though there is no real solution for immigration, it is important that we learn from the mistakes we have made. America has many stains on its reputation: slaughtering Native Americans, enslaving Africans, imprisoning Japanese, torturing Middle Easterners, and neglecting its own impoverished citizens. The issue of immigration is gearing up to be yet another stain—with the blood of so many on our hands, why can’t we practice a little more tolerance? It is unfair to not enforce border laws and expect people to stay on their side of the fence. It is unfair to outsource jobs to Third World countries and deny admittance to people who are just trying to survive. It is unfair to be the super power of the world, the holder of the American Dream and keep it all to ourselves.