They Have as Much Right as Our Ancestors
The forced removal of immigrant children from their parents calls into question who we are as a nation. Two moments in history may serve to clarify this issue.
Growing up during the Cold War, we heard stories of how Communists ripped children from their parents. I think that most of us, including me, thought that only Communists committed such despicable acts. We smugly thought that we were better than that.
Going back further we realize that immigration has always been a divisive issue. In the 19th century some Americans, including Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, feared that waves of immigrants with foreign languages and strange religions would corrupt the very nature of our republic. Immigration was permitted and the open border was the Atlantic coast. If you are white, your ancestors, like mine, probably came into this country during those permissive days.
Senator Lodge tried to enact legislation to stem this flow. To his frustration, a young congressman from his own state voted to keep the border open. Lodge accosted the congressman, calling him “an impudent young man.” He asked, “What right do Italians and Jews have to come here?” The congressman answered, “As much right as your father or mine. It’s just the difference of a few ships.”
The impudent young man was a member of a minority himself, as one of the only three Catholics in congress as the time. His name was John Fitzgerald — grandfather and namesake of a future American president.
Richard P. Mullin