Everyone’s Irish (Immigrant) for a Day
I love St. Patrick’s Day. For some reason, all of the US is ok with coloring our hair and our rivers and our drinks green on that day, and we call it a celebration.
Why not? Rumor has it there are more people of Irish descent in the US than there are people in Ireland. And, I hear, Something like 1/4 of all European-Americans have some Irish in them, like me.
There’s a great movie about modern Irish-US immigration, called Brooklyn; Check out my review of the movie here.
This year, St. Patrick’s Day happened simultaneously with the planned implementation of the latest Presidential Executive Order on refugees/immigrants/international travel. The irony was almost overwhelming.
First, the Irish Prime Minister felt the need to explain some history:
We were so pro-Irish on St Patrick’s day that we just sort of accepted when the President quoted “an old Irish proverb” that was actually a recent Nigerian Poem:
Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue.
But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.
In that spirit, some modern-day immigrants wanted to tell their story of being Irish and Undocumented in America. I’m not sure many people heard them.
We want to remember the easy parts of immigration. We want to believe that our family’s immigration story was easy, and legal, and sweet. We strongly believe that when our great-grandparents showed up with only a few dollars in their pocket and worked hard, they were living the American dream.
My crazy theory is this: The newly arrived immigrants, showing up with only hope in their pockets, are also living the American dream. How can we help them to succeed? How will they tell their children stories of arriving in the US – and how can we ensure that those stories bring us together as Americans?
It sounds crazy, that the refugees and immigrants we’re deporting and terrorizing today might become integral parts of US society later. But, the Irish story proves it’s possible.
A century ago, we hated the Irish.
We hated their food, their religion, their accent, their politics. We didn’t want our children to go to school with them. We didn’t want them in our communities.
They came anyway. Their country was in the midst of a severe famine, and Christians in the US were trying to rescue Refugee Children from the situation there.
Now, we talk about their arrival as if everyone welcomed them with open arms. We celebrate their immigrant Saint by drinking beer. (sheesh) We use fake proverbs of theirs.
How can we learn from our history so we don’t repeat it?