Commentary by Eugene T. Paslov: Most of us are immigrants or are closely related
For the Nevada Appeal
We must solve the immigration problem and get on with growing our economy and creating jobs. Immigrants and growing the economy are indeed related. Instead, many so-called political leaders spew anger and hate, claiming that immigrants are squandering our abundant resources and taking jobs from real Americans. Xenophobic gibberish.
Most of us are immigrants or are closely related. My father was born in the Ukraine, came to this country as a young man (probably illegal), and my mother was less than a whisper away from Irish and German immigrants. My wife’s relatives came from Scotland and England. They were mostly farm laborers, and little is known about their legal status. On her mother’s side she can proudly trace her ancestry back to the Daughters of the American Revolution (some of our original immigrants were the Founders) and heaven only knows if those folks were “legal.” Some of the Founders were even accused of treason.
We are a country of immigrants. In the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries we have needed immigrants to grow and pick our crops, operate our mines, run our factories, invent new tools of industry, provide scientific research, and explore intellectual, literary and artistic expressions of ideas that contributed to the uniqueness of what we call “American culture.” This is one of the finest places in the world to live because of our racial and ethnic diversity. The population diversity principle produces a vibrant culture, more varied, more creative to the benefit of all.
One need only look at our national demographics to see the impact of immigration. States like California and Texas have become “majority-minority populations,” and within a few more years our entire country will have a majority-minority population. We need to take advantage of these demographic changes and find ways to integrate both legal and illegal immigrants into our political and economic systems.
But we appear to be at a point in our history where some want to stop immigration — to send illegal immigrants back home regardless of the consequences. Arizona passed a draconian anti-immigration law and even though some courts are challenging its constitutionality, it’s still hurting Arizona’s economy. The Georgia Legislature (all Republicans), despite pleas from the state’s farming industry not to pass the law, did anyway. Crops are rotting in the field. Georgia’s unemployed refuse to work picking crops. The state will lose billions. We will have to buy our fruit and vegetables from China. How smart is that?
Let’s solve the immigration issue. We should continue to be a welcoming nation for all those who are looking for a better way of life. We need each other.
• Eugene T. Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.