The Upside of Immigration

There is a growing effort in many of the developed countries around the world to stem immigration; to close ranks and try to protect one’s territory from the flow of newcomers. From an evolutionary standpoint, human beings are genetically programmed to establish groups. And the ability to do so is vital to our survival as a species. Organizing together is how we do everything from forming governments to building cities.

Unfortunately, this tendency toward tribalism can also lead to an “us” and “them” mentality, which is what I see happening in the U.S. and other developed countries today. The truly sad part about that attitude is that it cuts a society off from the richness of sharing traditions from other cultures. In the United States, countless contributions by the Hispanic immigrants from South America, Central America and Mexico are interwoven into our everyday life.

In fact, what many folks aren’t aware of is that a good portion of the U.S. was actually considered part of Mexico. In 1846, as a result of the Mexican-American war, the border between the U.S. and Mexico was moved nearly 1,000 miles to the south. Land that now constitutes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas and Oklahoma was all part of the Mexican territory less than 200 years ago.

In addition to this shared history, Hispanic immigrants have made many wonderful contributions to the American culture. For example, Spanish has become a second language to many in this country, which is an improvement. Unlike most European countries, the United States is not known for prioritizing bilingual education. However, simply having many Spanish-speaking individuals around us provides the introduction to another language that we’re not getting in school.

Other Hispanic influences include major contributions to the performing arts. Through famous singers like Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez to salsa music and Latin dance, we have come to embrace the Latino culture. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention food! Every city in America seems to have at least one Mexican restaurant, and the style of cooking is so beloved that major Mexican restaurant chains like Chili’s, On the Border and Chipotle, are springing up everywhere you go.

I could go on to list the Hispanic politicians that have helped shape our government and the countless others who have helped to improve the culture of the United States. The point is that between the historical ties and what immigrants from the South bring to our culture, it is in our interest as a country to continue to work toward an immigration system that welcomes people from all backgrounds. Instead of shutting down our borders, let’s agree on a fair and equitable path to citizenship.