The Pew Research Center has just released a report stating that the foreign-born population in the United States is increasing so fast that the record set in 1890, percentage-wise, could be broken within the next decade. I'm not here to discuss the number of illegals versus legals, nor am I in a position to put forth an opinion on whether we should slow the influx of immigrants who continue to seek a new life on our shores. I do know the number of Syrian refugees the US has agreed to take is far less than proportionate to its population and far inferior to the number requested by the UN. My question is: what is at the heart of much of our reluctance to accept more immigrants? Yes, a large number of new arrivals at once could stretch our resources and strain our infrastructures. But if we're honest, there is something else at play here.
In his recent visit, some of Pope Francis's first words in addressing the American public included the fact that he himself is the son of immigrants. (His Italian parents left Italy when Mussolini came to power when Francis was four years old.) We all know that we are a nation of immigrants, so where is the disconnect? Who decided enough was enough, and when? What's more, I can only imagine what Native Americans are thinking.
Question: would we be reluctant to accept "new Americans," as some are calling the recent immigrants, if they were English, Irish, Scottish, or Dutch, the Europeans who initially populated the East Coast? Yes, many others followed: Spaniards, Scandinavians, Italians, Eastern Europeans...not to mention the African slaves who had no choice in the matter. And now fully 47% of recent immigrants to the US are from Mexico and Central America, followed by 26% Asians. But what language won out as the national language in this so-called melting pot? Seems the other languages melted away...to the point where Slavic and other Eastern European immigrants would change their names at Ellis Island to more English-sounding surnames in order to blend in better.
Is it possible that we Anglos are so used to being the majority that the ever-increasing number of minority immigrants threatens our position? And then what will happen? I believe it is this fear that is driving much of the rhetoric flying around in the immigration debate. It's not fun to admit to being ethnocentric, but I'm ashamed to say I see traces of it in myself.