Over the last several years, immigration, whether it be legal or illegal, has become an enormous issue of national debate in our country. Undoubtedly, it will continue to be addressed by liberals and conservatives alike, well into our future. Obviously, immigration is not a new concept to America. We all at some point in our lineage have immigrants that make up our ancestry and were responsible for giving us the opportunity to live in the greatest country this planet has ever seen. Immigration, to a large extent, is what gives America its uniqueness and allows this country to thrive in a vast array of areas. I am a fourth-generation descendant of German immigrants and am very thankful for the courage and fortitude my ancestors possessed that has ultimately allowed me to enjoy life as an American.
The fact that this country was founded and sustained by immigrants doesn’t need much elaboration. A point that is not focused on nearly enough, however, is the unique heritage and culture that has been established over the last several hundred years by these early American immigrants. Over the course of many generations, these brave men and women have established a culture that is like no other on earth. It is a culture full of customs, traditions, dialects and religions that are our own and unite us as Americans, and it was the immersion into this culture that the early American immigrant knew would be crucial to the realization of prosperity. It is this heritage I and so many other Americans would like to see protected and supported so that future generations of immigrants can continue to realize their dreams of living in this magnificent place. Out of simple respect to past generations, as an ardent patriot, I feel the least we can do as the present generation is to promote the longevity of the culture our forefathers created.
While patriotism and love for country should never demean the heritage and culture of another, this street travels in both directions. When immigrants vote with their feet and migrate to this country with the intent to live, work, raise a family and enjoy all of the incredible advantages that has to offer, but make no attempt to learn the language, observe the customs, celebrate our holidays, etc., they are showing a tremendous amount of disrespect to their hosts.
In my own personal experiences, I have collectively lived abroad for over a year of my life, three different times in Puerto Rico and once in Venezuela. During my time in these places I did my best to speak the language whenever the situation presented itself and worked very hard in many other areas to shirk the potential “ugly American” stereotype. I made concerted efforts to attend numerous local holiday celebrations, as well as attempting to submerse myself into the local culture whenever possible. My life during the time I spent abroad was certainly much easier trying to conform to local society rather than asking local society to conform to me.
Assimilating into the local community is a concept that is being lost on many of today’s immigrants to America. Every current and future immigrant should realize what all early American immigrants seemed to instinctively know: Immersing oneself into the American culture is the only way to truly realize and enjoy all that this great country has to offer. Countless numbers of pre-modern immigrants went to great lengths to intertwine themselves into the fabric of their new country. Many newcomers did such things as “revise” their last names to seem more “American.” They also understood that the adoption of local customs as well as learning the language was critical to their survival. In the last generation, however, we seem to be seeing a much more unassimilated immigrant who appears to care more about recreating the culture of their homeland rather than adopting the culture of his or her current place of residence. This attitude is not healthy if we are to retain a strong, cohesive and united America.
Generation after generation, people from all over the globe have made their way to the United States desiring to be absorbed under the common brotherhood of American nationalism. Whether from Japan, Denmark, Mexico or Italy, immigrants have arrived for centuries with a desire to eventually enjoy a common bond shared with their countrymen based on language, traditions, customs and similar beliefs. It is these commonalities felt by the citizens of this country that have made America a beacon of hope around the world. Unfortunately, there are forces that have been introduced over the last decade that are threatening that common bond and our national unity.
This country was made strong by the influx of immigrants and will continue to be a great nation on the backs of new ones. These new immigrants, however, will strengthen America and realize genuine prosperity for themselves and their families only to the extent they are willing to integrate themselves into the fabric of this country and truly become Americans. This country was made great and will continue to be such only through assimilation and unity, not through dissimilation and segregation. As Americans we need to band together against the forces that encourage division and encourage new immigrants to blend themselves into our culture. It is only through this that America will stay united and strong.