Our great American experiment has seen an epic clash over the centuries between those already on our shores and the latest load of newcomers. First, of course, were the brutal struggles between the Native Americans and the colonists. Then, less well known, the hated Irish and Polish fleeing strife in their respective countries. We have learned a great deal about the enslavement and plight of African Americans, however the stories of Indians (yes, as in from India) and Chinese are less well known but do a great deal to inform us about the current situation after President Trump issued his Immigration Ban.
The Chinese first came to the United States in large numbers to work on the railroads in the mid 1800s. They were industrious and therefore an excellent source of cheap labor. However, when bulk of the railroad work was complete non-Chinese Americans were horrified at the thought of the Chinese sticking around. Congress jumped into action and pushed through legislation ordering the deportation of all Chinese people who were not business owners. Ever wonder why ever town in America has a Chinese food store? It’s not because the Chinese have an innate need to cook or because of an insidious plan to poison us all with MSG- it was their only way to keep their American freedom and liberty.
Similarly, a great many men from India arrived in the American West and North-West during a great exodus from the India subcontinent. Unlike the Chinese, the Indians came over largely as individuals and inevitably began to marry and start families with locals. The Judicial branch took the lead in defending America from this threat, ruling that Indians as non-whites could not own land.
The current hysteria over “Muslims” is actually quite traditional, and signals a period of strife for another immigrant group, followed by their inevitable acceptance. Acceptance has, in large part, been accelerated by military service as we saw with the Irish in the American Civil War. The high numbers of Muslims within the military and the Department of Homeland Security is a natural symptom of their stage of integration and another sign that the process is moving forward. Assuming the wheel of time continues to turn as it has throughout American history this immigration ban is nothing to get excited over, although we must also look to protect our neighbors, liberate the oppressed, and ensure everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.