You can sum up the history of immigration in North America and the United States in not too many words: hatred, hypocrisy, exploitation, thievery, extermination and greed.
Actually, those words pretty much sum up the history of the human race, but I'll stick to immigration for now.
On Feb. 7, the Albuquerque Journal published an editorial cartoon that has the sensitive and concerned wringing their hands and shrieking that the piece was hateful and racist because it portrays Hispanic immigrants as criminals and thugs.
Those critics are right. The cartoon was a piece of racist garbage that portrayed immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants, as vicious, menacing thugs and terrorists who are out to destroy those who are already here and turn this prosperous and peaceful paradise into a smoldering, desolate and lawless hellhole.
But, that portrayal of immigrants is nothing new. We've been demonizing immigrants from the very beginning. And I mean the beginning.
Here are just some of the previous immigrant groups that been feared, despised, hated and exploited and portrayed as collective assassins of civilized American society: Irish, Germans, Chinese, Italians, Poles – actually, any group from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe – Greeks, Jews, Gypsies, Japanese, Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and, well, the list goes on.
We can't even court the most exploited and reviled group – African-Americans – as immigrants because they were brought here as slaves.
In the mid-1800s, the Irish were portrayed as lazy, fornicating, brawling drunks who were good for nothing but a jail cell. Italians were thought to be swarthy, lazy, fornicating, brawling drunks. Germans were unionists and anarchists who violated God's law by drinking beer on Sundays and throwing bombs at the upper classes whose ancestors founded the country.
Poles, Italians and others from Southern and Eastern Europe were seen as some bizarre, inferior races with smelly bodies, bad breath and a strange and dangerous religion – Catholicism.
Immigrants have always been exploited as cheap and expendable labor. The Irish dug canals by hand in the 1800s and died by the thousands every year and no one cared that they died.
The Chinese helped build the transcontinental railroad – hacking tunnels through mountains by hand - and died by the thousands, and no one cared that they died.
The Poles and other Europeans worked the slaughter houses, packing plants and factories of Chicago and other cities and were injured and maimed by the thousands, and no one cared that they were injured and maimed.
The hatred of immigrants is at the same time rational and irrational, but it is also the definition of hypocrisy. Despite our alleged sophistication and technical prowess, we're still basically tribes. And the way our tribe survives and prospers is by taking stuff – land, resources, jobs – from other tribes.
It's hypocritical because every single person in this country and on this continent – even Native Americans – is a descendant of immigrants. Hell, every person on the planet is a descendant of an immigrant.
And the history of immigration in North America is one of violence, greed, blood and illegal trespass.
The Native Americans are believed to have come here 12,000 to 14,000 years ago over a land bridge from Northeast Asia to Alaska. Were there humans here before they arrived, and did they make war on those people and exterminate them and steal their land? Who knows. But, they are immigrants - and possibly illegal immigrants - because they came from somewhere else.
Indian tribes constantly waged bloody wars against each other for territory and resources. They invaded each other's territories – unwanted, unwelcome and illegal immigration – and killed and tortured many a foe.
The Spaniards gleefully killed the Aztecs and others, robbed them of their gold, tried to destroy their culture and forcibly “converted” them to Catholicism. The Spaniards claimed the Southwest, including Texas and California, as their own, never mind that the Indians were there first. In other words, they were unwelcome and illegal immigrants who took – stole – what they wanted.
The Europeans in the East methodically and mercilessly killed Indians and stole their land. They flooded like ants across New England and the Mid-and-Southeast Atlantic states and across Indian territory. Then they flooded like ants – uninvited, unwelcome and illegal ants – across the Appalachians and into Indian territory in what is now Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin Michigan and other states.
And then, in the mid-1840s, they began flooding into California, Oregon and the rest of the West – again, Indian territory, and again, uninvited and unwelcome – via the Oregon trail. That was uncontrolled, unlimited and basically illegal immigration.
Americans poured into Texas, which was part of Mexico, and eventually wrested it away from the Mexicans and formed their own country. In other words, they used uncontrolled and unlimited immigration to take Texas from Mexico.
The U.S. government signed a treaty with the tribes in the latter 1800s giving them the Black Hills of South Dakota. But then gold was discovered in those hills and Americans illegally raced into Indian territory and took it for themselves. That truly was illegal immigration because there was a treaty in place that was violated.
And let's not forget the French in this violent history. They claimed vast swaths of North America for the kings and queens of France, again, never mind that the Indians were there before they were.
The history of immigration here is pretty simple. The people who say they were here first – from the Spaniards to the Northern Europeans to the Native Americans - claim everything for themselves, screw anyone else who might have already been here. And then when new immigrants arrive, they denounce them as devils, inferiors, monsters, thieves, drunks and lazy, uncivilized, murdering fornicators.
And the truth about America and immigration is this: We are a great nation, and we became a great nation by exploiting poor and uneducated immigrants and by trampling, unwelcome, over other people's borders and lands.
Welcome to the land of the illegal immigrant.