A Nation of Immigrants

And the Country Continues to Benefit

Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune

FOREIGNERS ALL: I married an immigrant, and I’m very, very proud of her.

Angela Brantingham taught a generation of Dos Pueblos High School students, staying up late marking papers and on weekends.

I mention this not just because she was so dedicated to her job while also raising our four children, but because the term “immigrant” seems to have taken on a highly negative context since John F. Kennedy wrote the book A Nation of Immigrants.

Angela came legally, with a BA and master’s degree from Ohio State, and arrived from Panama with a great love for the United States. Although we’re divorced, we remain close.

I come from a family of immigrants, too, except that they arrived by boat about 300 years ago, long before Ellis Island existed to greet newcomers.

I wonder if those desperate for tickets to the Broadway hit Hamilton, now onstage in L.A., know ​— ​or care ​— ​that this hallowed Founding Father was born on a Caribbean island. (“A foreigner, Helen. Cancel the tickets. We’re not going to encourage illegal immigration.”)

Hamilton, you may recall from Civics 101, was born out of wedlock on the British island of Nevis and went on to become an influential interpreter and promoter of the U.S. Constitution. Among other accomplishments, he is credited with founding our financial system, was secretary of the treasury, and played a major role in the Revolutionary War as an aide to George Washington. Hamilton was killed in a foolish duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.

Speaking of immigrants. President Trump is stirring the pot with his attempt to kill the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which shields from deportation about 800,000 people who were brought here illegally as children by their parents. It gives them permission to work.

They must either be in school or have graduated, have a GED certificate, or have served honorably in the U.S. military. Trump rescinded DACA earlier this month but delayed implementation for six months.

Trump wants to kill it but doesn’t have the political will. So he’s punted it to Congress to strangle for six months to let congressional politicians take the blame for whatever happens. Then, he says, he’ll take another look.

To give you an idea of the atmosphere in Washington these days, the New Yorker magazine ran a cartoon last week showing banished Trump senior advisor Steve Bannon brandishing the sign “Make America Hate Again.”

The right wing calls DACA amnesty, so right there, with the A-word, without knowing any more, it’s opposed.

President Barack Obama created it back in 2012 by executive order when Congress wouldn’t act, so right there, that’s another reason for the Republicans to kill it. Obama.

Does anyone really think that Congress, which couldn’t even come up with a health-care plan to replace Obamacare, will give the green light to DACA?

So how has immigration worked out for the United States, on the whole? Pretty well, I’d say, except, of course, for the Native Americans, who were here first and have paid a terrible price for not staking up “No Trespassing” signs on the beach.

The facts of DACA are that it only applies to those who entered the country before their 16th birthday and had lived here continuously since at least June 15, 2007.

One of the myths about DACA, according to David Bier, writing in the Washington Post, is that it’s taken jobs from ordinary Americans. Actually, he said, from 1970-2017, the U.S. labor force doubled. But instead of doubling the unemployment rate, U.S. employment doubled.

Many economists say DACA has no major impact on native-born Americans and on the whole benefits the economy.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions claims that repeal of DACA keeps the nation from the risk of crime, Bier points out that DACA applicants must pass a background check, must have lived here without committing a serious offense, and if arrested, can lose DACA even without a conviction.

The University of California last week sued the Trump administration for rescinding protections for immigrant students, saying it unconstitutionally violates their rights based on “nothing more than unreasoned executive whim.”

As usual, the ship of state seems to depend on which way the political wind blows, and Trump’s whims.

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