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.
The Mexicans are unlike previous immigrants. This definitely needs to be read by everyone at least once! It should be linked on pertinent immigration threads. Here's an interesting link about Samuel Huntington:
"Strangely enough, despite the fact that he was buddies with Henry Kissinger at Harvard, he is registered as a member of the Democratic Party, and has written foreign policy speeches for Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and Jimmy Carter."
The difference between the Irish and the illegal immigrants, though. The Irish came through Ellis Island and weren't sneaking over the border to get in. There's that whole legal thing again.
The Irish never bilked the country for welfare or formed clandestine organizations to make America part of Ireland.
Not "technically" true. Just simply true and it makes all the difference.
Interesting assumption, this, that because so much was going on at Ellis Island, there was no illegal immigration. I would tend to intuit the opposite conclusion -- so much was going on at Ellis Island, that there was plenty left over to "sneak in."
Someone correct me if I'm wrong: Did the Irish come over hear waving the flag of their native country, claiming they had a "right" to the territory they were settling in? Did they demand free healthcare, free education for their kids, and services in native Gaelic? My history is a little rusty.
Nice try Denver Post. As I recall, the Irish were starving to death and the American people welcomed them with open arms. Neither of which can be said for the South Americans sneaking over our border in the dead of night.
A writer with integrity would have phrased that "That's true" and ended the piece right there.
Once again, a lib attempts to turn this into a debate about immigration. It's about ILLEGAL immigration. I would wonder if he was stupid but he's not--this fudging is done intentionally.
The Irish also didn't expect to receive a bilingual education, didn't overload social services, and didn't crank up a "reconquista" movement.
...and there's still that whole legal/illegal thing.
I also don't think the Irish had obnoxious sounding parties every weekend. Sure, the Irish drink a bit, but at least they have good music.
We faced many of those Irish mercenaries in the War of Northern Aggresion,
the ranks of the invaders were filled with many foreigners, from many lands,
while we were true born Americans.
The wetbacks wanna stay Mexican.
The Irish did not come here intending to cut off part of the US in order to kick out the previous population and attach the territory to Ireland.