As of Friday, February 24, 2017
Yesterday was dubbed the “Day Without Immigrants.” In the Lower Yakima Valley, I’m told, at least 60 predominately Hispanic businesses were shuttered in protest of President Donald J. Trump’s stepped up deportations of illegal aliens in accordance with existing federal law.
Well, if the point of the day was to show me that life would be different without immigrants, the effort failed.
I went on about my regular routine — buying lunch, hitting the grocery store, stopping at Walmart and buying gasoline and propane. Simply put, I was not inconvenienced, whatsoever.
That said, as a journalist, I did stop by a shuttered Sunnyside grocery store to see what people had to say. And I was a little surprised by the reaction of Hispanic shoppers greeted by carts blocking locked doors and signs saying the grocery store was closed to show support of the political protest, and opposition to the deportation of illegal aliens. Given the demographic makeup of the area, I had expected shoppers to applaud the political statement and protest.
Boy, was I wrong.
All of the Hispanic shoppers I encountered were disgusted that politics had invaded their favorite local store. As we talked, they quickly pointed out they are Americans, even though a few said their first language was Spanish. They also correctly pointed out that every American citizen is an immigrant.
That got me thinking about my own family history.
When my now 14-year-old daughter, Olivia, was born in Port Angeles, I immediately began working on our family tree. I traced our roots back more than 150 years. Most of my ancestors came from Germany. A branch or two in the tree were Dutch and one branch was Irish.
In my research, I located ship manifests showing they came with few belongings. Like many Mexican, Chinese, Cuban, Russian and other immigrants of today, they came looking for a better life — and a chance to shape their own destiny.
In the basement of a small courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa, I found some of the most important family documents I uncovered — my ancestors’ immigration papers. In those documents, my ancestors disavowed all allegiance to the nation from which they came. They swore to uphold the Constitution and laws of the U.S. They agreed to learn the English language and to assimilate and become American.
They were not German-American, Irish-American or Dutch-American, and they didn’t profess to be. They were simply American.
As a result, I am American. Period. End of story.
The Hispanic shoppers I spoke to also recalled how their families came to the U.S. in search of better lives, and took the necessary steps to make sure their children and children’s children were American.
I chatted with some of those shoppers for several minutes.
One thing came through loud and clear — they, too, were proud to be American. They, too, were proud of their family history and heritage. And they, too, didn’t find anything wrong with the president’s executive order directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce the law of the land — and even deport those who disregarded the proper process of becoming American.
Those few minutes of discussion proved to me, once again, that Americans are Americans, no matter where their families came from. It proved to me, once again, the reasons most immigrants come here are the same — life, liberty, happiness and the American Dream. It also proved to me, again, there is no such thing as a “hyphenated-American.” You’re either American or you’re not.
Clearly, Americans living in the area were not impressed with politics being injected into their daily routine without their consent. That makes me even prouder to be American — and an Eastern Washingtonian.
— Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Daily Sun.