Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Self-Hating Immigrant Bashers

Kentucky's new Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo is a first-generation American. In his inaugural speech Tuesday, he spoke of his immigrant background in terms that nearly brought me to tears.

And it reminded me how sick and fucking tired I am of anti-immigrant hate speech. And yes, even the most deceptively reasonable mention of how "illegal" immigrants are breaking the law and therefore as criminals cannot be tolerated in a civilized society is, indeed, anti-immigrant hate speech.

Why do I have to remind anyone that 98.5 percent of the U.S. population - about 295.7 million people - are either immigrants themselves or descended from immigrants?

Why do I have to remind anyone that for 392 years, there was no such thing as "illegal" immigration to this country? (An oversight deeply regretted by AmerIndians.)

Why do I have to remind anyone that the immigrant ancestors of the vast majority of "real" Americans would never be allowed off the boat under the current immigration laws? (Including yours truly, descended from actual criminals condemned to death in their native land.)

Why do I have to remind anyone that immigrants are only classified as "illegal" because they failed to jump through a bunch of stupid bureaucratic hoops that the immigrant ancestors of "real" Americans would have ignored?

Why do I have to remind anyone that those "illegal" immigrants are ignoring those stupid bureaucratic hoops only because relatively recent laws have slashed the number of visas issued each year down to a laughable handful?

Why do I have to remind anyone that every wave of new immigrants (Irish, German, Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) to this country has been met by anti-immigrant hate that makes the current backlash against Mexicans and other brown folk seem tame?

Why do I have to remind anyone that almost every single thing accomplished in and by America was accomplished by either an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants?

Why do I have to remind anyone that immigrants built this nation, goddammit, both literally (roads, coal mines, railroads, cities) and figuratively (the entrepreneurial energy that fuels the economic engine that still runs the world.)

Why do I have to remind anyone that every single bloviating asshole pissing and moaning about "illegals" is itself a descendant of immigrants who would today have to sneak in "illegally" (I'm talkin' to you, Lou Dobbs.)

Don't listen to me. Listen to Dr. Dan, the grandchild of a coal miner from Italy, who is now the second-most powerful man in the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

(More after the jump.)

It was that same American dream that led a young man named Dominic and his two brothers to leave Italy and come to Harlan County, Kentucky a century ago. Not knowing what lay ahead, but with hope and promise, they came to work in Kentucky's coal mines. It was not easy. It took hard work, but working together they made a life for themselves. The opportunity Kentucky gave them allowed Dominic to bring his children from the Old World to the New.

The promise of America allowed his son, Jimmy, to grow and prosper. My father, who is with me today, left school at 15 and went to work to provide for the family. He married my mother, Katherine, bringing her from Italy. He, too, had an American dream.

From nothing they built a life in Eastern Kentucky.

Like Kentucky's story, their story had hardship and pain. Their first son, my brother Dominic whom I never knew, was lost because quality health care was not available in Eastern Kentucky then. But, like Kentucky, my parents endured.

Kentucky gave my parents the opportunity to prosper and they gave me the chance to follow my dreams – through Hazard High School, Transylvania University, and to the University of Kentucky School of Medicine.

Their commitment to that American dream led me back to my home in Eastern Kentucky to practice medicine. It led me to the Kentucky State Senate. It led me here today where I am proud and honored to become Kentucky's Lt. Governor.

The story of my family is a uniquely American story, a uniquely Kentucky story.

It is from this Kentucky story that Steve Beshear and our entire administration embark in a new direction.
Working together, Steve Beshear and I want to make that Kentucky Dream available to everyone in this great commonwealth.

I don't want to see Mongiardo run against Mitch, but oh, the money I would pay to watch Mitch try to defend his murder of S-CHIP to the man whose infant brother died for lack of access to medical care.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.