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July 10, 2013 2:29 pm

The Amend Corner: Moving on — and moving in— has always been human nature

Written by Don Amend

A couple of weeks ago, my wife handed me the phone to speak with the lady on the other end of the line.

The lady was conducting a poll, apparently for the Republican Party, about the immigration bill currently being discussed in Congress, and asked me if I would support a bill that included a number of provisions. Then she began to read a list of those provisions which was so long I lost count by about item number eight.

I interrupted her, telling her that it was impossible to give a yes/no answer to such a question. Some of the provisions sounded reasonable, but many seemed to ignore reality, and others were obviously intended to make sure certain groups had no chance of ever becoming legal residents, let alone citizens.

Well, when I told her that, she wasn’t happy, and after a brief discussion, we said goodbye.

Immigration has been a hot-button issue for some time, and I understand the need to bring some order to the chaos. But realistically, I’m not sure the problem can ever be completely resolved, because the human race is nothing if not mobile.

The migration of Abraham from somewhere in what is now Iraq into what is now known as the Holy Land lies at the base of three religions, and nearly every corner of the Earth is populated by people who moved there from somewhere else. The Israelites migration to and from Egypt, the Bantu tribes spread across Africa, and the Boers flight from British rule by migrating further into the South African interior are just a few of thousands of great migrations in history.

In every case, the migrants displaced people who were already there. Celtic tribes were pushed out of Western Europe by Germanic tribes from the East, and the Lakota, Cheyenne and other tribes displaced tribes such as the Mandans and Pawnees as they moved onto the Great Plains.

Such migration is at the root of our national history, and nearly every one of us is descended from ancestors who came from somewhere else. My own family tree includes people who came to the U.S. from six countries.

My grandmother emigrated from Russia, but her family spoke German, since her ancestors had migrated to Russia a few generations earlier. My wife’s grandparents came from Sweden, and there are some indications that they had originated in Germany as well.

My son-in-law came to the U.S. from Cambodia, but his father was ethnically Chinese.

All of them were legal immigrants, of course, but in the 19th century, immigrants were generally admitted unless they had an infectious disease, were mentally ill or had a criminal record. My son-in-law was admitted as a refugee who would likely have been killed by Communists if his family hadn’t escaped the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia.

Today’s immigrants, legal or illegal, come to the U.S. for the same reasons those in my family came. They came for economic opportunity or to escape a threat. Maybe the threat was not as dramatic as the murderous campaign by Cambodia Communists, but fear of dying as the result of drug violence in Mexico or starvation in Guatemala seem to me to be good reasons to hit the road as well, and should be considered as factors in the admission of immigrants

This immigration has been instrumental in making the U.S. a great nation. The mixture of cultures and talents that immigration has produced has benefitted our economy and contributed to the rich culture we enjoy as a people.

I’m not arguing here that Congress should not work to reform the nation’s immigration system. It’s a mess and needs to be fixed.

I would just like to see a system based on reality, rather than the fantasy that we can totally shut off illegal immigration or expect immigrants to instantly speak fluent English, which were two of the provisions that pollster who called me suggested should be in any legislation.

The reality is that humans are a peripatetic bunch. They pick up and move to find safety, better jobs, better weather, more excitement or any number of other reasons. They may decide to move just for the heck of it.

And if they decide to move, they’ll find a way to do it, legal or not.

That’s human nature, and I don’t think Congress can change it.

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