In the late thirties, and early forties, my Sicilian Great-Grandpa was snuck onto a trading boat by my Great-Great-Grandpa, with the attempt to sneak away from the threat of the Nazis, and sent to America. With only a small distance left to the coast of the US, my Great-Grandpa jumped off of the boat, and swam to shore, was able to assume an identity and move to Detroit to make cars. He had many children, the eldest being my Grandpa, gained his citizenship, and lived the rest of his days comfortably in America. He was an illegal immigrant, yet never faced any form of prosecution for it. In fact, some could argue that he was rewarded for it.
Meanwhile, in Tornillo, Texas, young , illegal Mexican immigrants face prosecution and live in prison-like quarters in what is being called a tent city. Its creation was ordered in 2016, and, while the population is currently dwindling due to protests, can hold upwards of six thousand children at a time. Why are these children here? These minors are the children of illegal immigrants, previously living in Mexico, now separated from their parents, and being held against their will. Workers there are described as racist, the tents almost military like, and the standards these kids are held up to, with the impending threat of abusive punishment un-debatably too harsh for anyone.
So, what is the factor that separates the outcome between the achievement of the American Creed between my Great-Grandpa’s illegal immigration story, and the average life of an illegal immigrant from Mexico? Why is it that life is so hard for them, but Great-Grandpa lived more than comfortably until the end of his life?
Maybe, the answer lies more in context. Sicily, during the time of my Great-Grandfather’s immigration, was not a part of Italy, only being located closely to it. As Benito Mussolini (the Italian dictator at the time of World War 11) fell, as did Italy’s claim to Sicily, causing the association to the Axis Powers fell all together. Sicily was not as “demonized” as countries like Mexico are today, which, for no reason other than to instill fear, is stereotyped as a country full of rapists, and drug dealers: or even people just out to steal your job. People are being rounded up because of negative association: my Great-Grandfather had no negative association, because Sicily had parted from Italy, but since Mexicans are perceived to be as many prejudiced people will speak of them, there is that negative opinion. The same has happened across time, most significantly with the Jewish in WWII, Armenians in the early twentieth century, etc. But obviously, they're not who they are portrayed as, because only about ten percent of eleven million illegal Mexican immigrants have been convicted of any crimes.
Or maybe, things to take in factor could be the sheer amount of immigrants. According to the same New York Times article, there are about 6.2 million illegal Mexican immigrants in the US today, while, during the period of 1900-1940, there were only about 4 million immigrants (accounting for both legal and illegal) from regions such as Calabria, Campania, Abruzzi, Molise and Sicily. Is it just the size of the population coming over perceived as a threat? The number of “stolen jobs”? Or were Southern “Italians” considered too minor of a threat for the Government to care?
There may be no simple answer to the question of why or how these stories were so vastly different in immediate outcome, perhaps laying in something more complication than numbers or racism, but one thing remains clear: our America needs to work much harder to help our fellow Man Kind, so that people who are pushed to escape illegally do not live the rest of their lives on one side of the spectrum or the other, or even to just make immigration easier, because America is not a private club; we are a land of all cultures, and all of us, with the exception of the minority, owe our lives to immigrants. There must be some reforming of the laws surrounding our country’s take on illegal immigration, to the benefit of the immigrating.