By Erika Stutzman
Posted: 03/17/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
“No Irish need apply.” — New York Times want ad, 1854
Every era has its scourge in its crosshairs, nearly always a swell of humanity that can be unfairly blamed for taking jobs and costing society too
much to bear. There are always cultural differences, and sometimes a difference in skin color, and this only serves to raise the ire of the
masses who just want the newly and not-so-newly arrived to just “go back” to where they came from. Or where their parents or grandparents came from.
So it was with Irish Americans for some time. They were said to be a too-cheap class of labor and too burdensome on hospitals. Stereotypes for
violence, and drinking, of child neglect and for being poorly educated (and also, poor) didn`t help.
On this St. Patrick`s Day, a day when many Irish Americans celebrate their heritage, we note that not only did the Irish and their children refuse to return to County Antrim, they served to make this country what it is.
More than 36.5 million Americans claimed Irish ancestry in the 2007 American Community Survey, trailing only German Americans. The number of Americans who are Irish is more than eight times the population of Ireland. From the late Georgia O`Keeffe, to Neil Armstrong, to President Barack Obama, influential Americans with Irish ancestry can be found in every segment of our society.
But it wasn`t always easy, what with the stereotypes and backlash from the neighbors. But there was a clear path to citizenship.
Today, after years of ineffective “enforcement-only” illegal immigration policies, America has found itself in the middle of an immigration crisis.
No one knows for sure how many illegal immigrants are here: Estimates swing wildly from 7 million to more than 20 million. Most of them are Latino.
Some have spent most of their lives here — going to school, working, having children. They may be deported after a traffic stop. The children who weren`t born here could be deported as well. We are deporting people to countries they cannot even remember.
Getting a higher education or imagining a future outside of off-the-books work is a pipe dream for many of your neighbors — like the 23-year-old
former Boulder honor roll student whose mother brought her here as a kid, but didn`t have a social security card to use the scholarship she earned.
She`ll be on a bus headed to Washington D.C. this weekend, to attend the March for America with other Coloradans to fight for immigration reform.
Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of America. According to a U.S. Census projection, there will be 102.6 million Latinos living here in 2050. They will double their share of the nation`s population to 24.4 percent. Like their Irish American counterparts, they are our great artists, and will be our astronauts, our future presidents.
In the interest of growing our economy, providing a great future for all of our children, securing our borders and continuing our strong legacy of being the melting pot of the world, we need immigration reform. It must crack down on employers who exploit the system, and it must deport illegal immigrants who have committed other crimes. It must not rely on E-Verify, a faulty disaster of a tool.
It must also include a pathway to citizenship for those who have created lives and families here, and have been contributing to our society and
economy all along. They should be able to come out of the shadows, register and have a shot at citizenship.
– Erika Stutzman, for
the Camera editorial board
Read more: Immigration reform needed – Boulder Daily Camera