Skip to comments.Irish were Latinos of their day
Posted on 04/04/2006 5:34:55 PM PDT by neverdem
Today's rancorous debate over immigration has a parallel in the nativist reaction to the mass Irish immigration in the mid-19th century.
Spurred by the potato famine that began in 1845, 3.5 million mostly destitute Irish migrated to America by 1880 - about 7 percent of the population of 50 million. By contrast, today's 11 million unauthorized immigrants, of all nationalities, constitute just 4 percent of our population.
Contemporary immigration foes, like former Gov. Dick Lamm and Rep. Tom Tancredo, claim America can't absorb so many foreign-born without fatal damage to our economy and culture.
Yet, history shows we did just that. Today, there are 43 million Americans of Irish ancestry, a key element of the vibrant alloy that is America.
Today's nativists argue we can't compare today's illegal immigrants to the Irish, because the Irish came here legally. That's technically true, but the 19th century wave was just as uncontrolled, because America had virtually no bars to immigration in those days.
Kenneth Ackerman's book, "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York," details how the desperate Irish were welcomed at the docks by the political machine that provided the only social safety net in that era.
Tweed minions would help the newcomers find housing and work and, if there was an election in the offing, they would swiftly be naturalized as citizens in mass ceremonies by Tweed's judges, so they could vote for their benefactors.
Cartoonist Thomas Nast, who hated Irish and Catholics with equal fervor, pandered to the nativist bigotry by depicting Irishmen as drunken, subhuman brutes. The accompanying Nast cartoon depicts the role immigrants played in supporting Tweed by showing an Irish thug and a Catholic priest carving up the Democratic Party goose that laid the golden eggs.
But though the Irish were despised, they were still admitted through America's golden door. That's because Americans needed them to do our dirty work.
The first generations of Irish worked largely at unskilled and semiskilled occupations, but their children found themselves working at increasingly skilled trades. By 1900, when Irish Americans made up about 8 percent of the male labor force, they were almost a third of the plumbers, steamfitters and boilermakers. Their places at the bottom of the ladder were taken by newly arrived laborers from southern and eastern Europe.
Today, those dirty, low-paying, jobs are being taken by Latinos. But if history is any guide, the daughter of that Latina who scrubs your floor today may be the doctor who delivers my granddaughter's baby a generation hence.
To some, that is a frightening prospect. But I think Clio, the muse of history, would join with Lady Liberty herself to say:
Bienvenidos, Americanos nuevos.
Bob Ewegen is The Denver Post's deputy editorial page editor.
That is a bit rosey of a picture you paint. The prejudice against the Irish was real and rampant. But the Irish rose above it through hard work and pride.
Your words need to be printed in the letters-to-the-editor section of the devious rag. Spot on!
Yep, they don't want to face the "legal" aspec of todays problems with the "undocumented" ILLEGAL, parasitic, money stealing, job stealing, terrorist scum who come into this country without permission. Not to mention disease ridden, non productive, worthless criminals. I guess that about covers it. I would think Dane will be here shortly to straighten me out!
And there still exists to this day, black people in Africa that hunt with spears.
I am sure one of you can come up with a good racist comment out of that one too.
Here's what we have to look forward to:
Reconquista Armando Navarro 'Ethnic Studies' Professor at the University of California, Riverside Anti-American, Fifth-Column Menace. "Ladies and Gentlemen, what this means (the immigration bill) is a transfer of power, it means control, and it is the young people, the people who are now moving to develop an agenda for the twenty first century they are going to be in a position to really make the promise of what the Chicano movement was all about in terms of self-determination, in terms of empowerment, even in the terms of an Aztlan...."
"...fought discrimination against the Irish and built lives as Americans."
And that's the rub. See, even the Illegals here now COULD follow that lead, but they don't, and they never will. They will always want a Mexico within our borders.
Also, the Irish speak the same language we do, which makes assimilation 100 times easier.
Whoa, MO! I believe that's the first time I've witnessed your 'damn near 100% Irish' temperament! LOL but good far yuh, stahndin' up far thuh truth!
No one could sneak in from Ellis Island. They were sent back if they had any illness, any descrepancy of their documents, any thing at all that would cast a doubt on their being a productive person if allowed to enter would get them sent back. The whole reason of Ellis Island was to sift through the undersirables and eliminate them. You couldn't "sneak" off of Ellis Island unless maybe you could transform yourseld into a boat!
Not only does it fit, but "Operation Wetback" was a name of an governmental illegal roundup in the 50's was it not?
I'm not a racist. I dislike every criminal equally. Congressman, Senator, Wetback, Murderer....all the same. Scum.