The Immigration Debate in 1911 & Today

Abuelita and kids

There are many misconceptions about Mexican people. I’ve heard that some Mexican-American children are being told not to admit they’re of Mexican descent because of the low opinions many people hold – Mexicans are lazy, drug addicts, unintelligent and so on. Mexican immigrants are people, not statistics, and much more than racial stereotypes.

My abuelita came to the US as a ten-year old girl with her family to escape the chaos and violence of the Mexican Revolution. If they’d stayed, their home would have been ransacked, their livestock stolen, her brothers forced into Pancho Villa’s army (or faced immediate execution), and she and her sisters might have been kidnapped.

My great-grandfather gave up thousands of acres of land in Mexico to live in the US and ensure his family’s survival. My Abuelita never became a US citizen, but she worked hard to raise four responsible citizens, one of whom is my father, at one time honored, in-person, by the President of the United States as one of the most accomplished, highest performing federal government employees in the nation. (Photo above, upper left)

My book deals with the challenges immigrants faced in 1911.  More than a hundred years later, those challenges remain.

Ancestors from both sides of my family came to the US from Mexico (and a few from Lebanon and  England, too), but is my family really that different than families whose ancestors came from Ireland, Portugal, China, Korea, Puerto Rico, Sweden or elsewhere? At one time in history, the Chinese were vilified, and so were the Japanese, and so were the Jewish, and so were the Irish, and the Native Americans, and it goes on and on.

Just as we now see how the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Indian Removal Act of 1880 and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII as morally reprehensible, we will eventually look back in horror at the mistreatment and open disdain of Mexicans and other Latinos entering this country, often at great peril, to build a better future for themselves and their loved ones.

To quote Emma Lazarus (and the inscription on the Statue of Liberty):

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I understand this is a complex issue, and I do not purport to have all the answers. But, I know this. My abuelita and her family worked hard, paid taxes and contributed to the beautiful tapestry of peoples and cultures that strengthen our country.

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One Response to The Immigration Debate in 1911 & Today

  1. Russ Noble says:

    Well crafted post honey. I hope a lot of people read this. Everyone knows this is true, but some people are so blind, uncaring and self-absorbed that they think their ancestor’s journey to America is more legitimate than others.

    Just walked through a small Saturday market in Klamath Falls. Miss you.


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