Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Migrants on the march: US cities hit by citizenship protests

Millions of illegal immigrants march for "the right to be American" and many citizens march alongside them. This seems like a story of hope. Perhaps the European model of mutual distrust veneered with "multiculturalism" is not the only way?

Of course, it's amusing to see some of the slogans about "gringos" being the real immigrants. The Spanish conquistadores made the early white settlers of the American colonies seem more saintly even than the myth of the "founding fathers" would suggest.

Leaving aside their patchy grasp of history, the whole thing is rather charming. America is where Anglo-Saxon language, culture and values seem to have the best chance of survival. It's nice to see that they can be so attractive still. It reminds me of my own warm feelings - as a devout Shakespearian - standing in the Folger Library in Washington DC and knowing that our culture was safe for the foreseeable future, whatever ills befall the islands of its origins.

As long as Americans hold firm to their historic stance that immigrants are welcome to become American, but not just to relocate, they (and we) can take pride in the appeal of our Anglo-Saxon way. It's ironic that it it appeals more to these, mainly Hispanic, immigrants than it does to our own rulers in Britain who sometimes seem determined to destroy it.

It is also ironic that these "illegals" have by definition, thrived in the USA without any recourse to social security. They cannot be subject to the Daily Mail's usual nasty insinuation that they came only for the benefits. Whether they can articulate it or not, they have been drawn to the opportunity presented by the free market, have worked hard and have learned to love the American way. If you despise Abu Hamza for coming to Britain to preach jihad on the "dole", you must logically admire these guys for their courage in facing the raw challenges of the labour market without the safety net of "welfare". If you can't maybe you are just a racist? If you can, then you definitely aren't.

Of course, a nation needs to control its borders. Illegal immigrants clearly have no "right" to be American. Whether they become so is for America to determine and it is entitled to make and enforce clear rules. But given that there are some 12 million of them, it seems the USA has systematically tolerated "illegal" immigration, perhaps to provide cheap labour. If so, many of these people have been allowed in on deliberately disadvantageous terms - effectively on probation.

That puts a different complexion on their desire to be accepted as Americans. Many of them may be de jure but not de facto "illegals".

It's not for someone who has never been more than a "wannabe" American to say what the USA should or should not do. I would only comment that Americans are lucky to have immigrants who want to be American. I hope they work it out peacefully between them. Immigrants made America great. Maybe some of these immigrants can make it even greater?

Telegraph | News | Migrants on the march: US cities hit by citizenship protests

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