Friday, October 23, 2009

Guest Blog - A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy

While visiting the Blogger in Turkey, I picked up A Nation of Immigrants in her office and took it back to her apartment to read. I was familiar with Profiles in Courage by the late president, but had not come across this small book. It was actually published in 1964 a year after President Kennedy’s death. His brother Robert wrote a forward for the book and had it published.

Kennedy emphasized the fact that each new wave of immigrants coming to the United States of America met with prejudice and rejection beginning as far back as Quakers and Catholics in the northern colonies. Whether the immigrants were Irish or Polish or Italian, the established inhabitants saw them as a threat. The newcomers were seen as a threat to jobs and to political balance. Does that sound familiar? Kennedy did not live long enough to see the cruelty shown towards incoming Vietnamese or the present day anger shown by many towards Hispanics or Middle Easterners.

The only group of people who were excluded from any immigration at all is the Chinese. The laborers were welcomed when they quietly came and endured abuse while building the railroads heading east from California. However, when the railroad was finished, the population descendent from Europeans expressed their fear of foreigners by enacting an exclusionary clause. The only group of people who have ever been completely prevented from immigrating to the US have been the Chinese.

Kennedy pointed out that in order to keep the majority of the population not only Western European but predominantly from the British Isles, quotas were established limiting the number of people coming into the country from other nations.

Unless you are a Native American/Indian, if you are an American you are descended from immigrants. I think that part of the success of our nation is based on its immigrants who came with dreams of improving their lives. Our forefathers or perhaps parents came here eager to make a better world for their families. For the most part they have succeeded. I hope that those of us who have benefited from our ancestors’ dreams will feel a little more compassion for the latest wave of immigrants.

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