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Immigration is in the news again, and I’m trying to figure out where I stand on the subject.

“Maybe I’ve finally found something I can sort of agree with our president about,” I said to my daughter.

“You’ve got to be kidding! What would that be?” she wanted to know.

“Limiting immigration,” I said.

“What? You are for limiting immigration?” she said, aghast.

I’d been reading the latest headlines while I exercised and I had just been considering the pros and cons of immigration.

Was it a good thing to set limits? Should there be a standard for immigrants to meet to come to this country? Would immigrants from one part of the world be better for our country than people from another part of the world?

“America is built on immigration,” my daughter said. “Immigrants often do the work that Americans, who’ve enjoyed freedom for as long as they can remember, don’t want to do.”

She went on listing all the plus points for a continuous immigrant population.

“Not that I can’t see your point,” she finally said.

She was remembering a time at least 25 years ago when she no longer could be on the family insurance. She was just starting a new business and couldn’t afford health care. In desperation, during a medical emergency, she applied for temporary state aid and discovered she didn’t qualify. Meanwhile, a long queue of Mexican immigrants with flocks of little kiddies were qualifying.

“I thought that was unfair,” she said. “But, all in all, immigration is a plus!”

She didn’t have to remind me that all of our ancestors were immigrants. Our family history contains lots of stories about folk who transplanted themselves to America.

Uncle John’s story stood out for me. When his family got on a boat, he was denied boarding because he had pink-eye. Still a child, he was left behind. Much later, when he finally got here, his original family seemed almost like strangers.

I remember stories of mandatory sponsorships for immigrants and how important it was to have relatives who were already settled in America.

My family didn’t come to escape religious persecution, nor were they in fear of losing their lives. Mostly they came for economic reasons, for a chance at a better life. A few came to avoid conscription into the Russian army, even though they were German citizens. In-laws coming from Norway were looking for employment and a chance to own land.

Always it was the hope of something better, finer, more abundant in this new, unknown place. Who would want to deny that possibility to anyone?

However, when is enough enough? Is it morally right to set a limit and essentially say, “We’re full up! We have more people than we can handle.”

There is only a limited amount of land, a certain amount of space, only so many resources available.

“Immigration is part of our national heritage,” my daughter reminded me.

“But look at Australia,” I countered. “Being a penal colony is part of their heritage! That country was founded by a bunch of people deemed unworthy or unsafe to live in England. Does that mean that because of their history they should still be welcoming felons?”

“Seriously, Mother,” my daughter said, looking sincerely disappointed in my attempted use of logic, “are you just searching for any way to win this argument?”

I grinned.

“Well, maybe,” I said. “It is something to think about.”

And it’s something to talk about, amongst ourselves, on another day in the country.

Another Day in the Country

It’s in the news again

Last modified Aug. 9, 2017

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