By Ryan Turner
International Relations Professor and Chair of the Madrid Chapter of Democrats Abroad
On April 9, 2016, Democrats Abroad Spain will have the pleasure and honor of hosting U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus who, at our Annual General Meeting, will be sharing (among many things) her personal story with us. She, like so many Americans, has immigrant roots and will be discussing this issue with us at length. Her story and voice on the issue is a welcome contrast to the hate-slinging rhetoric we are constantly bombarded with from Republican presidential campaigns. Their rhetoric is so vile and dismissive of our country’s past and history that you’d think both republican candidates’ families had been immaculately conceived in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave… Families so purely American that their lineages actually trace back to bald eagles that cried tears of freedom into the soil of Plymouth Rock where their forefathers sprouted from the ground while The Boss’s “Born in the USA” blared from sea to shining sea. (Seriously that’s what they sound like.) But no, both of the Republican frontrunners are the products of immigrant families, one of them the son of Cubans that migrated to Canada and then America and the other of German descent from the clan of Drumpf.
Let’s face it, America is a nation founded by immigrants and slaves. EVERYONE in America is tied to immigration or slavery. Sure, Native Americans were here, but according to the last U.S. Census, only 0.9 percent of the total U.S. population identified itself as Native American or Alaskan Native. So basically, that leaves the other 99.1 percent of America. It’s hard to imagine how a country MADE UP of immigrants so easily ignores that fact. The truth is that we don’t talk about it and when we do, immigrants and minorities usually end up getting demonized, whether it’s being blamed for American job loss or for violent criminal activity. With candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz leading the Republicans, it’s clear that America’s fear of immigrants has been exacerbated and is now oozing like a bad case of acne that has contaminated the surface of conservative political platforms.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the issue weren’t so important but the fact is that, by 2018, America will have created 2.8 million jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and the problem is not whether or not immigrants will be taking those jobs from Americans, but whether or not America will even have enough qualified laborers to fill those jobs. America is looking at a massive deficit in human capital and despite what conservative pundits will have you think, America’s population is shrinking while demand in new innovative sectors to create more jobs is increasing. This is a recipe for disaster that immigration alone can’t fix, but could definitely help.
Besides the economic need for immigration in America, it should be a matter of principle. Comedian Dave Chappelle had a character on his hit show Chappelle’s Show named Clayton Bigsby who was a blind white supremacist. The only caveat was that Clayton Bigsby was African American and never knew it. It certainly pushed limits, but it was a hilarious comedy bit because the parallels were eerily familiar. Has America become Clayton Bigsby? Ninety-nine percent of our population is from somewhere other than America. How seriously can the world take us (who many countries consider to be a “young” country) if we can’t even remember who we are or where we come from?
As Democrats we believe that a diverse nation makes us a stronger nation, because we come from every nation. We have the advantage of getting the best ideas from everywhere and our immigration policies affect how the rest of the world views us. We should embrace immigration and own it. It is, after all, who we are.
And this is why, in this volatile time in history, we as Democrats Abroad Spain chose to dedicate our Annual General Meeting to the topic of immigration, focusing on it being a source of strength in our heritage and our future, with Democrat Americans living in Spain sharing their stories that stretch back to every continent.