An Argument for Amnesty


Although our laws have changed many times over the years, our attitudes towards immigrants have remained the same, even while admitting we are a “melting pot” country and that immigrants made this country all that it is today.


We have always had a need / fear relationship with immigrants. Our history of laws tells this story quite eloquently.


During the gold rush, California was awash in asian immigrants who came here looking for opportunity. We needed cheap laborers to build the railroads, do our laundry, cook, work in mines, and any other hard unwanted work. We weren’t too pleased with our immigrant workers, but they served a purpose so we put up with them, until gold became scarce and the competition for work made them more undesirable. We really liked to single out our asian immigrants, imposing more rules and limits on them than any other immigrant community. We even specifically banned Chinese in 1892.


Currently we are demonizing the Mexican immigrant, and grouping all other latino immigrants in with them by proxy.  As with the Chinese, we liked them when times were good. They did the hard and dirty work and made our lives much easier, but ever since jobs began to get scarce, we needed to blame someone for what ails us and they look like the easiest target. After we get over demonizing Latinos, I am sure we will find another immigrant base to focus our anger and responsibility on. If history does repeat itself, my money is on the Chinese. They seem to be our favorite.


If we look at our immigrant forefathers, when they first came to this country, they were persecuted and made scapegoats for any problem that the citizens of this country did not see fit to take responsibility for themselves. Because of this, every successive wave of immigrants has had to endure this treatment, until finally they became accepted and the focus on them decreased. This was almost always because of a newer group of immigrants who appeared to be more of a threat than the previous one.


For the past several years there has raged a large debate as to what to do with the millions of undocumented latino workers living in our country. Politicians have see-sawed over this issue countless times, promising improvements in immigration policy and then restating their positions after considerable party pressure. It’s like they want to do the right thing, but when they feel like they may be eaten by their own, they retreat to the comfort and protection of their party.  This may be very much our fault too.


And that is the point isn’t it? Whose fault is it that they are here illegally to begin with? Should we put the blame for this situation on the people who were just working within the constructs of what they were given, or on the people who created the need but ignored the systems required to satisfy that need? And if it is our fault– if the immigrants had no control over a system that is broken beyond belief and has been for years– then how can we blame and punish them? After all, aren’t we the only ones who can create the policies and institutions necessary to ensure everyone who comes into this country is identified, and we have the labor we need?


Lets end the blame game and get on with the solution, which leads me to my original proposition: Isn’t amnesty the honorable way out of this mess?


These people have been here for many years and we have never boycotted a single company that made a product for us cheaper because they used immigrant labor. Shouldn’t we give them citizenship should they desire it? At the very least we should make it legal for them to be here and decriminalize a population of hardworking people that aren’t criminals to begin with.


This is our mess. We need to take responsibility for it, and fix it, without blaming the pawns in our little blame game.




  1. […] American history we have taken in immigrants, making it one of our national heritages. College graduates could easily be considered some of the best human capitol other countries are […]

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