Bigotry against foreigners hurts more than foreigners


If you were in a lifeboat after a disaster aboard a ship, and another survivor in the water begged for help in getting into your boat where there was plenty of room, would you be free to tell the desperate person that, sorry, we cannot have that because that would get our boat all wet? You would not, and probably by international law of the seas. That law has no problem telling which of the two values outweighs the other. Both have weight but one is heavier. Lady Justice is characterized as blindfolded, holding a scale for weighing. The blindfold keeps her unbiased since she cannot tell whether rich or poor is invoking justice.

Central Americans are in comparable extremes. Many of them are surging north to escape death caused by gangs and extortioners. To leave their homes and their belongings behind, taking only what they can carry perhaps for a thousand miles does not suggest that they want free welfare in our spacious United States. They are fleeing murder and theft and have no alternative. We Americans take for granted the security we enjoy every day of the year afforded to us by something they do not enjoy: police protection. Think of living under those conditions they take for granted, with corrupt officers on the take, selling out to drug and slave dealers who buy and sell federal politicians. Such living conditions are so foreign to us that many believe fake news sources are lying to us about life below the border.

An understandable objection raised by those who want to curtail immigration is that jobs would be grabbed up by workers willing to take starvation wages just for the safety of life here. Perhaps they heard that this is what their ancestors from Europe endured when they arrived. My paternal grandfather came from Gessopalena in Abruzzi in Italy and went to work on the railroad. My maternal grandparents came from Routi in Basilicata, also in the poorer south of Italy. They must have hated to leave because when I visited the home town of Grandfather Giovanni DeGregorio, I thought the mountains and the farmlands were as beautiful to him as to me. But he had no choice. Civil upheavals put people out of work. And you do not eat if you have no work.

I have written here before about the 4.5 million Italian immigrants who came to the U.S. between 1880 and 1924, when anti-immigration forces shut down our intake, we took in that many hope-filled seekers from Italy. More than half returned to those beloved home towns not because they did not like it here but because that was their plan before leaving Europe. This was once they had earned enough money here where there were jobs. They did not inflict themselves on native-born Americans. Even more would have returned to Europe but their older children objected. Comparable numbers of other Europeans flocked here to get work and then go back east. America benefited from their underpaid labor, so both prospered.

My maternal grandfather, Vincent Anthony Gentilesco, the son of immigrants, changed his name to Gentless when he left the coal mines of Hazelton to get a job as a conductor with the Philadelphia Transportation Company. He had experienced discrimination since his name gave him away. Going back home to the country of origin is common. Latinos are leaving the U.S. in numbers greater than those entering, whether legally or otherwise, although fake-news aficionados rave about desperate, rapacious caravans surging north resolutely refuse to accept this.

Bigotry against foreigners bites one’s nose to spite one’s face. Since they know they are not welcome in many places, immigrants know they have to work harder for less income and less respect. So they do. It may take a generation but they work their way into acceptable society. My relatives include doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, military service personnel and one is a town mayor. Not one parasite among us. Employers refusing to hire because they dislike foreigners deprive their businesses of workers who know they have to produce or else.

The most densely populated nation in the world is the Netherlands. Visit it sometime and see the vast tulip fields in the spring. See the square miles reclaimed from the North Sea and ask whether they feel crowded. Hospitable to immigrants, they will tell you no. You might even envy their living standard. They show it can be done.