On Good Liberals, Amnesty, and Other Funny Terms

The other day I read a blog comment saying, "Good liberals should be against amnesty." 

I can't get over the hilarity of this statement. Among both Republicans and Democrats, legal immigrants and native-born Americans, there is an overarching sentiment that recent immigrants should “wait in line”, “wait their turn” and “follow the rules”.

The question is – what rules? Other than Native Americans, very few in this country followed the rules to come here. And that includes white and black Americans.  

White American history is an immigrant one.
The Pilgrims were illegal immigrants: they arrived at a foreign shore without a visa, then did the abjectly illegal act of claiming that the land was now theirs. That means that America's founding fathers were children of illegal immigrants.

Many other European immigrants continued to come without following the rules. Poor rural peasants got on a boat without a visa, and came and made a life here. Do you think Irish dying in The Great Hunger (An Ghorta Mor, in Gaelic) waited for their visas to come in while they starved? If they had a brother in the States, do you think they stuck around, counting on a visa interview while their children went hungry?

They arrived to an Ellis Island and an America chock-full of immigrants, as the percentage of foreign-born in this country was higher back then than it is now. They went on to work draining factory jobs, and live in multi-family tenements with plenty of vermin but little in the way of ventilation, clean water, or sanitation.

Although people don't like to admit it, the Tenement Museum in New York’s Lower East Side is white American history.

African-American history is also an immigrant one. By what rhetorical conclusion is being robbed from one’s homeland, chained in slave ships, and brought half way around the world to suffer a life of torture, abuse, and dehumanization “legal immigration”? Enslaving other human beings is illegal: do the black liberal news voices suggesting that Latinos should “wait their turn” realize they are accidentally making the rhetorical leap of siding with slaveowners, taking pride in “waiting their turn” to come here? That is very scary and slippery territory, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why it has a place on primetime.

Leftist white and black activists who talk about “people who followed the rules” and people “obeying the system” with any kind of comfort showcase their ignorance on the larger macro-economic factors that drive people to the U.S. in the first place. Is the leftist media really content to rally around the idea of neoliberal rules that that keep the majority of the population – women and people of color – at a market disadvantage? That decides how many Chinese to let in, how many Indian tech workers, yet always let white men in,  even when it was illegal? Are the MSNBCs of the world really choosing to advance the idea that immigration in America was ever a fair system? #Nerdland: you should know better than that.

It’s time for the U.S.- and particularly its talking head class – to fully acknowledge and embrace the irony of its founding. And abandon silly labels like “good liberals”, and animosity towards the term “amnesty”, when white and black Americans are here only because they were granted it.

White and black Americans are also immigrants, and looking down their noses at Latino immigrants, as if Latinos violated some treaty that they themselves didn’t, is a privilege they simply don’t have. Pundits – please keep this in mind next time you go live.