From Cleveland.Com --
Back in 2008, before then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora’s world started to crumble in earnest, I penned a little song parody about his throwing a couple of Plain Dealer reporters out of a news conference. They were questioning him about a county employee whose hiring looked a lot like cronyism.
It was titled “That’s Dimora”and was sung to the tune of “That’s Amore.”
A couple of days later, a delegation of guys — most of whom you’ve probably at least heard of — dropped by the editorial writers' department to chew me out for disrespecting Italians. Every one of them was as American as an apple pie chaser after a big plate of lasagna. Solid citizens. Here for the duration. Completely invested in the United States of America.
In one particular case, American and proooooooud of it.
They obviously had great love for their ethnic heritage, but they weren’t straddling continents. Their lives were here. Their families were here. Their businesses were here. Their future was here. And the most meaningful parts of their past were here.
I’m confident that if someone ran an Italian flag up the schoolhouse pole above Old Glory, to a man they would have taken offense. Because, to a man, they love this country. Somewhere along each of their lineages, some gutsy forebear risked everything to come here — legally, one would surmise — and stayed to make a life and to contribute to a better, stronger America.
They didn’t forget their heritage, but they aren’t confused about where their allegiance lies.
Contrast that with the vast majority of “immigrants,” who arrive illegally and with no interest whatsoever in contributing to a better, stronger America. They’re immigrants only in the sense that they have entered from another country. They stay as long as it suits them, or until they get caught.
Citizenship is the very last thing on their minds. Money is the very first.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush got the money motivation absolutely right when he rhapsodized about illegal “immigrants” on Sunday, during an event at the George Bush Presidential Library. The rest of it, he mangled beyond recognition:
“The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.”
OK, Mexico is a hell of a mess. It’s corrupt. Its oil riches have been horribly mismanaged, and what hasn’t been squandered has been stolen by the people in charge. It’s drug-ridden, gang-ridden and poverty-ridden. Getting out of there has to have tremendous appeal.
But they can’t do it legally, so their lives stay there, even when their bodies are here. And going back with a bag of dollars earned up north in the land of opportunity has a lot of appeal, too.
Their apologists remind us constantly that the United States is “a nation of immigrants.” And so it is. But let’s not flatter today’s illegals by calling them immigrants. They’re just visitors, here on their own, individually conceived guest-worker program.
The immigrants of previous generations came here looking for opportunity and wealth, too. But the vast majority did so with no thought of returning. They packed what they could, booked passage on ships, said goodbye to everyone they knew and disembarked days or weeks later at Ellis Island. They were committed to being in the United States because they were convinced that the United States was the best place in the whole world to make a life.
They came to be Americans, not to be Italian or Irish or Polish people merely residing in the United States, with roots and plans no deeper than a mailing address.
That, too, was an act of love — love for the things they understood America to stand for.
They came to be Americans, not just to take what they could get and head for home as soon as they thought they had enough or felt the law closing in. They didn’t break the law to come, in hopes of being hired by an employer willing to break the law, under the nose of a government that declines to enforce the law. They came to learn and assimilate into the culture, not to change the culture so it resembled what they had left behind.
America, meanwhile, doesn’t exist because the Founding Fathers made an act of commitment to their families. Far from it.
America exists because of enormous risks — to lives, to fortunes, to sacred honor, to families — taken by people who believed strongly enough in the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence to commit everything to them.
You won’t find any such commitment in today’s illegal “immigrants.” They’re here to use America. And while they’re here, they, in turn, are used to increase the political power of groups that cynically play on the emotions of good-hearted, soft-headed people — like Jeb Bush.
It’s good that he spoke up the way he did, because in doing so he torpedoed his already extremely slim chance at the Republican presidential nomination. That was a public service. So was giving Americans reason to re-examine the point of immigration.
If immigration is to make any sense, it must benefit both sides — the new arrival and his new nation. In no way does the scant benefit of cheap labor begin to offset the damage that is being done to American law and culture.
Kevin O’Brien is The Plain Dealer’s deputy editorial page editor.