In the summer of 1951, my friend and I decided to bum around America and hitch hike to the golden state of California. When we hit the California border, state police checked all who sought entry and made anyone with fruit throw it away. I was asked if I had $25 in my possession, and when I produced a total of $32.50 they allowed me to enter their fair state. California in the 1930s was the destination of those who suffered from a huge drought which impacted the Middle West. Thousands upon thousands of people from Oklahoma got into beat up trucks, piled the family in and headed west to jobs in California. The Oakies were treated much as are current day illegal immigrants. They were subject to abuse when they reached the California border, searched, insulted and humiliated in order to make certain all Oakies knew they were the scum of the earth. Today, in 2010, their descendants now subject the latest group of migrants to similar hatred and abuse. Tea Party supporters, who statistically are in the upper middle class insist the “illegals” are taking away their jobs picking strawberries or cutting up meat in Omaha packing plants.
Of course, in the 1840s, the “illegals” were poor Irish immigrants who somehow had made it across the Atlantic and once in cities, undercut those with jobs on the docks or servants or barbers in order to get their jobs. Actually, they “took away jobs” from the poor, not the middle class. Mythology is that illegal immigrants take anything away from the middle and upper classes.
I was born in America, served in the US Army, worked all my life as an educator, but have never lost sight of the Lady in New York harbor whose hand is high in the air as she welcomes all to our shores. As far as I know, she has never inquired if an immigrant is legal or illegal. She leaves those questions to bigots of the Tea Party.