Illegal Immigrants or Refugees?

September 13th I visited four Roman Catholic Churches near Schulenburg, Texas, known as The Painted Churches. There are many more in the state but these four are conveniently clustered so as to make the trip reasonable. Their origins are in the mid 19th Century when a goodly number of Germans and Czechs came to this country. This got me to wondering why they came at that particular time.
A bit of searching on the web painted the scene of post-Napoleon chaos in Europe with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. The German feudal city states were being formed into nations, but there were significant differences among the citizenry. I was surprised to read that the conservative Germans drove out the liberal Germans and the liberal Germans moved to Texas. (It must have been the last influx of liberals into Texas.)
I began to also think of the Irish that came to this country. I had always heard that they were driven from Ireland as a result of the potato famine.
And there was an interesting news account of U. S. lawyers going to the detention camps that hold the people from Central America. The lawyers were giving these Central Americans legal representations, and judges were hearing their cases via television. One case involved a woman that had fled for her life from a murderous husband. (Now that is the best lawyer story I can remember.) These Central Americans became something other than a number – they had faces and names and histories.
If this were happening in any other nation we would call them refugees. We would not call them “illegal aliens.”
I thought of the receptions these people received when they came to this country. The Irish had a tough time in Boston and New York. They were barred from places of business. They took entry level jobs. They provided the manpower to build our industrial society and the profits went to the trusts.
The Germans started newspapers, started the first kindergartens, introduced the Christmas tree, hot dogs and hamburgers and now numbered over fifty million people. Can you think of a world without bratwursts and a good glass of beer? You might think of some notables such as Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Admiral Nimitz, Albert Einstein, and a great many more.
And how have we welcomed Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, etc.? After building the railroad, and being interned during World War II, and a lot of menial labor, they now fix your computer and deliver your health care. (I have difficulty spelling and/or pronouncing the names of some of my doctors. How would you pronounce “Viwanath Kalapatapu?” His colleagues call him “Dr. K.”)
The current groups of refugees are seen doing yard work, repairing roofs, picking lettuce, doing concrete and tile work. Just exactly whose jobs are they taking?
One of the tenets of the Old and New Testaments – and the Koran – calls for welcoming the stranger, the sojourner, or the alien. It is called the rule of hospitality.
Those “huddled masses yearning to be free” got off that boat and have struggled and scratched out a living – and made this country through the generous gift of their labor, ingenuity, and diligence.
We send aid to refugees in Syria and around the world – and we should. What about those on our own door step? Many years ago David H. C. Head wrote a small book containing the prayers we really say. One of them went “Bless all those in foreign lands and keep them there.”


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