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2018-04-12 / Voices

Illegal Immigration Has Been An Issue Since 1492

MAKING A NOISE IN THIS WORLD
BY JIM KENT
FREELANCE WRITER & RADIO PRODUCER

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (which I can totally understand these days) or been living on another planet (no, South Dakota actually doesn’t qualify), you’ve likely seen the image of 4 Apache warriors - rifles in hand - surrounded by the ironic truism: “The Original Homeland Security…Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.”

Of course, the reason for that terrorism was immigration. “Illegal immigration,” technically, since none of those who came to these shores ever seriously took into consideration that there were people already occupying this land. Nor did it enter their minds that anyone who lived here might not approve of their arrival. After all, they were Catholics – “the one true religion” - and their mission was to convert all those “heathens” around the globe who had not been “taken into the fold” of their chosen spiritual beliefs.

Imagine if sheep herders actually treated the flocks in their fold the way Catholics of that time treated their unwilling congregants.

That Columbus arrived on the heels of the Spanish Inquisition only served to enhance the sense of self-righteousness and the level of brutality that he and those who followed him imparted on those Indigenous people they encountered.

Yes, Catholics only at that point, since the Protestant Reformation was still a few decades off. But the various Christian denominations would all have their negative impacts on Native Americans as they, too, became illegal immigrants to this land.

Of course, the then tens-of-millions of Indigenous people who lived on this continent were not familiar with the term immigrant – illegal or otherwise. Nor of the impending doom that awaited them. And why should they be? How can you have a phrase in your vocabulary for an event you’ve never experienced…or even imagined in your worst nightmares?

Yet from the moment the seed began to grow within that Italian explorer of a shorter route to the East Indies to purchase spices and silk, that would only be found by sailing to the West, the fate of millions of North and South American inhabitants - in fact, entire civilizations in some cases - was sealed.

Scary that one man could generate such mass genocide.

It’s this stark reality of the impacts of immigration on this land’s First People, therefore, that makes the current concerns over immigrants – illegal or otherwise – BY immigrants so absurd.

But such concerns are, sadly, nothing new. In fact, they date back to the very founding of this nation when – already a melting pot of English, Irish, Germans, Scots, Italians and dozens more nationalities – Americans became incensed that other people wanted to immigrate to this new land of freedom. Well, selective freedom – though it was still heads-and-tails better than being under the thumb of whatever monarchy most people lived within at that time.

From Irish and Germans complaining about Eastern Europeans and Italians, to Englishmen (the “true” Americans since Independence was declared) complaining about them all to everyone complaining about the Jews, each group conveniently discarded their own immigrant past as other immigrants landed on these shores. While few, if any, took a moment to realize that anyone who arrived here was actually stepping on, traveling across and setting up their homes on a continent whose original inhabitants were displaced – and continued to be displaced – by the endless arrival of immigrants.

I don’t generally write book reviews, nor is this intended as one. But I highly recommend a gem I picked up recently in audio format called “City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York”. Whether Native or non, though especially for those whose ancestors arrived here from somewhere else, this fascinating examination of America’s immigrant history will open eyes to the reality that has been immigrant bias (toward one another) from the get go.

And since the vast majority of immigrants to this land arrived first in New York City – even before the Ellis Island Immigration Station was established in 1892 – before traveling to other parts of the country, this lengthy but very easy read (or listen) not only offers an in-depth look into what life was like for those arriving on these shores, but is a sad commentary on the mindset of those who became part of “the stealing of America” while vehemently protecting their own place it that massive theft.

Given the current concern over who’s permitted into this country, it seems that we haven’t changed – only the names of our targets have.

Jim Kent is a freelance writer and radio producer who lives in Hot Springs. He is a contributing columnist to the Lakota Country Times and former editor of The New Lakota Times. He can be heard on National Public Radio and other radio outlets. Jim can be reached at kentvfte@gwtc.net.

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