News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Illegal or not—immigrants are real Americans

Above all else, being American is an attitude. It is an affirmation of hope, the dream that sweat and energy can create a better life. No ethnic group can lay claim to that ideal. Nor is it limited to a single language.

The upheaval we are seeing today is part of a larger pattern. For centuries people have come to this land with dreams of a better life. Their arrival has invariably been met with resistance. Eventually, their foreignness becomes familiar and they are welcomed into the fold, usually to be replaced by the next wave of newcomers who endure a similar fate.

Many say today’s wave of immigrants is different. They arrived here illegally. In truth, the world is not so simple. The first illegal immigrants in Texas came from Tennessee. Most of these Anglo squatters settled in the Mexican province of Tejas without any legal rights. Today, Texas is one of the most prosperous regions in the world and their legal indiscretions are long forgotten.

At its core, the current migration from south to north on our continent is easy to understand. The U.S. has the jobs. Mexico and Latin America have the labor. The economic gravity at work in this dynamic is as powerful as the tides—and just as irresistible.

A look at our planet from space shows no national borders. Examine a fifty-year-old globe and it becomes apparent that sovereign boundaries are illusions that change over time. What we are seeing today is Adam Smith’s invisible hand redrawing the map of our hemisphere.

We can choose to resist—and create turmoil and strife. Or we can accept today’s immigrants for what they really are: the latest wave of Americans.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez