‘Nation of immigrants’ a misleading concept

Let’s stop calling America a nation of immigrants and start calling it a nation of immigrants’ children. If everyone is an immigrant, the word doesn’t mean anything. We might as well say we’re a nation of people.

Look at China. Do you think its people always lived there? Groups moved in at some point, and more followed. They all came from somewhere, definitely not from China. They were immigrants.

You will see a stark variety among Chinese if you look them over. They come from different places and bloodlines. Eventually, all the immigrants died, and China became a nation of children of immigrants.

It’s often said in America that we should not resist the flow of immigrants because we are a nation of immigrants and seem to forget our roots. This argument is ridiculous. We have no obligation to Emma Lazarus’ poem displayed in the museum in the large base of the Statue of Liberty. The most frequently cited line reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Let’s be serious. Nobody knows what to do with the huddled masses. They have to go somewhere, but they cannot keep coming here or anywhere without a system to accommodate them in a safe, sane manner.

Maybe Brazil could be shamed into absorbing the huddled masses. Talk about a nation of immigrants. Well, not too many immigrants.

Hardly any, actually. They all died off long ago. And the indigenous people who were brutally displaced and enslaved are mostly traces of their ancestors and mixed with new blood.

Brazil is a nation of immigrants’ children. Give them the “huddled masses” plaque and they’ll throw it right back at you.

Okay, well, how about Egypt? That’s another nation of immigrants. They don’t normally identify as Africans. They are Egyptians and Mideasteners, even though we know they live on the African continent.

How did they get there? Their ancient ancestors migrated to the land and later dragged other people groups there and did the familiar thing of slavery, domination and discrimination. Egyptians are still divided by ancient differences. They are also a nation of children of immigrants who feel no obligation to the huddled masses.

You’d think they’d remember their roots and put out the welcome sign for all to see: “Y’all come on in, especially you fellow Africans, because we’re just a nation of immigrants. We’re just like you. Don’t know where we’ll put you, but you have every right to jam in here with the rest of us.”

Everywhere I turn, I hear activist’s quoting the “huddled masses” line in Miss Emma’s poem. As one who has collected immigrants’ stories firsthand for decades and who is in favor of sensible immigration, I reject the poem as justification for anything having to do with immigration policy.

We are not a nation of immigrants unless every other country in the world is, too. We are nations of immigrants’ offspring. We are a world of immigrants’ kids. By learning the histories of our own ancestors, we can deal more compassionately and wisely with contemporary newcomers, but we cannot accept the huddled masses and the tired and poor just because.

Believe me, even recent immigrants have strong preferences about who they want in their neighborhoods.

Reckless compassion and politics regarding immigration have encouraged the creation of an industry of human trafficking, death, rape and the destruction of the family unit by advocates who claim to care so much about immigrants. Even Miss Emma would look at today’s immigration challenges and say, “Take this plaque and shove it.”

Max T. Russell writes for the international business intelligence and nonprofit communities.