Land Of Losers
By Lynn Ashby 27 Sept. 2010
News item: “Abandoned in Baghdad – As the United States ends combat operations in Iraq today, it is leaving behind the thousands of Iraqis who worked on behalf of the American government — and who fear their lives and families are threatened by insurgents as a result.”
Uh-oh. Stand by for yet another deluge from foreign lands. True, “deluge” may be an overstatement. In 2008 Congress significantly expanded a program that provided our helpful, but now-endangered, Iraqis with visas to immigrate to the U.S. But only 2,145 visas have been issued even though the program has 15,000 available slots. When the rest of those 15,000 arrive, will they eventually bring in their 13 cousins? Then the cousins’ wives and kids? Hey, don’t blame them. We made the rules.
That’s our tradition. Every time there is a war anywhere, the losers (and those who are threatened) come to America on a well-beaten path which is older than the United States. It all began in 1745 when the Scots revolted against the English — Bonnie Prince Charles and all that. It was called the Jacobite Rebellion and the Scots lost. Afterwards, many of them left the Highlands for America. Some repaid their American hosts by siding with the British in the American Revolution.
In the 1750s, Britain and France fought all over the world. In North America the dispute was called the French and Indian War. The French lost and the Brits took over French Canada. The people there, called Arcadians, didn’t want to live under British rule and speak English. So a large group of them went to another French colony, Louisiana, where “Arcadians” became “Cajuns,” who still don’t speak English.
Over the years many Cajuns drifted into East Texas. Do you use one of those big plastic garbage cans on wheels, and roll it out to the curb for pickup every other April? On most of those cans around Texas the instructions are written in English and Spanish. In Port Arthur (pronounced Port ar-TOUR) the instructions are also in French.
The Irish suffered under both their English occupiers and a potato famine, and went to Boston by the millions. In the mid 1800s the Germanic states, there was no Germany yet, were warring against one another and everyone else. Families fleeing the conflicts, and especially young men evading the draft, came to America, many to Texas. This state has millions of their offspring.
Fleeing the Mexican Revolution in 1910, refugees crossed the Rio and never went home. The late 1930s gave us a different situation: we received refugees from Europe before a war, like Albert Einstein. Following that conflict, we got war brides from Europe and, of course, several rocket scientists. After the rise of Castro, hundreds of thousands of anti-Castro Cubans came to the U.S. and are a major political force in Florida. When the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 collapsed, we received many of the losers.
After our side was defeated in South Vietnam, again, the runners-up came to America. We had a guilt thing. According to the 2000 Census, nationally 1,122,528 people identify themselves as Vietnamese alone or 1,223,736 in combination with other ethnicities. Of those, 134,961 (12 percent) live in Texas.
During the Central American civil wars of the 1970s, vast numbers of Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans fled to the U.S. to get away from communist governments. These refugees were freedom-loving persecuted patriots who sought political asylum after losing power to those dirty commies. But when those dirty commies were, in turn, overthrown and freedom-loving patriots took over the governments, no one went back home. When the former Yugoslavia exploded in the 1990s, America got Serbs, Croats and Bosnians. The war is over, but many of them are still here. Meanwhile, after every coup or revolt in Haiti, the Haitians come here. The earthquake only intensified the parade.
We’re not a nation of immigrants. We’re a land of losers. On the other hand, each tide of new arrivals brings new restaurants, shops and parades. The Statue of Liberty’s inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” This is most appropriate, although I’m not sure I’d like to be called “wretched refuse.”
Currently the big flap over new arrivals is about illegal immigrants, mostly penniless and jobless from Mexico, estimated to be 11.1 million. An average of 850,000 people a year entered the U.S. illegally between 2000 and 2005. As the nation’s economy collapsed, that number dropped to about 300,000 annually between 2007 and 2009, that’s still a lot. While some states saw declines in the sizes of their undocumented residents, it is estimated that Texas’ share grew from about 1.4 million in 2005 to 1.6 million in 2009. Illegal immigrants accounted for roughly 6.5 percent of the state’s total population.
We have some other visitors who are not illegals, but do skewer Texas’ demographics: Katrinians. Originally some 250,000 of them – again, jobless and penniless — came to Texas, mostly to the Houston area. The 2010 Census will tell us how many returned to the swamps. Estimates are that 15,000 to 150,000 are still here.
Before we Texans get too uppity about all these folks coming in, we must remember back when our forefathers and foremothers arrived. Most of them were Texas’ first illegal aliens, and the rest weren’t much better. We have this observation from Harper’s Weekly of March 30, 1861: “Texas was in a miserable condition. Its people comprised among them the worst vagabonds and scoundrels in the world. When a man was so infamous and hopeless that he could not even ship on board a whaler, he went to Texas.”
So, we can count on a lot of threatened Iraqis coming here, but don’t pull up the gangplank. We promised to leave Afghanistan next year, but thousands of Afghans have been helping us. We can’t just leave them there. Or their 13 cousins.
Ashby migrates at firstname.lastname@example.org