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April 1, 2013

Letter: Revisionist history and immigration

To the editor:

Oona O’Neill’s letter (the Times, Wednesday, March 27) criticizing Arthur Thomas’s earlier piece that urged people to “walk in the shoes” of today’s immigrants was dripping with angry nostalgia and very distorted history.

Ms. O’Neill waxes nostalgic for some halcyon era in American history that never existed. Her suggestion that today’s immigrants are, on some mass scale, being offered “...free housing, food, energy, education, and health care...” — and that is causing our country’s fiscal woes was misleading to the point of being patently false.

The current crisis impacting our health care system, for example, has little to do with immigrants sucking the system dry. It has everything to do with the huge number of native born Americans who have no health insurance. The state of Texas is a glaring example of that reality.

Sure, some immigrants, like many poor U.S. citizens, receive various forms of social welfare and some, no doubt, abuse it. But does that mean we should turn our backs on and penalize the many who, often through no fault of their own, cannot provide for themselves or their families, be they immigrants or native born?

Ms. O’Neill also revealed in her letter just how little she really knows about the history of immigration in the United States.

She waxed nostalgic about the clean, tidy, Cleaveresque homes some immigrants were thankfully able to provide their families, but never mentioned the filth, squalor, and dire poverty millions of Irish, Italian, and various other immigrants were forced to live in when they first landed on our shores and were herded into urban ghettos and slums because those who viewed themselves as the “real Americans” of those years thought the new immigrants were beneath them and did not want them living in their neighborhoods.

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