Who were the first immigrants?

Recently, while visiting an art studio with portraits of First Americans, I came across this image. Hung just adjacent to the paintings, the photograph, and its caption abruptly brought the viewer into the furor of the present. With continued outrage from conservatives about immigrants stealing jobs and benefits from Americans, whether legal or illegal, it bears remembering who the first immigrants were to North America. Most were Europeans: be they from the Baltics or Spain, the Netherlands, France, Italy, or England.

So why the anger over current-day immigration? Since, apart from indigenous folk, the rest of us trace our lineage from other shores. Statistically speaking, and regarding the economy, are immigrants that much of a threat to the availability of jobs? Or is it only illegals that concern those vocally protesting their entry into these fair states?

Observes one essayist, “…undocumented workers often assume the unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that [the rest of us] aren’t willing to do.” [1] Found in meat-packing plants, along with gutting fish, laboring in the fields, assuming back-breaking work in construction, mowing and tending to America’s lawns and cleaning her houses, and while found babysitting the youngest of her children, do not their struggles implicate the rest of us? Reminding us that save for the First Americans of these lands, all of us, every single one, is an immigrant.

Prayer: Holy One, teach us to see your children, all your children, as moving towards being a part of the family of God. Compel us to acknowledge that save for the First Peoples of this land, every one of us is an immigrant. We ask that, in your mercy, you open our eyes to see the beauty and wonder of humankind’s rich diversity in all the peoples of the earth and the creatures whom we share it with. We ask this in all the holy names of God. Amen.

[1] https://www.brookings.edu/articles/do-immigrants-steal-jobs-from-american-workers/

[2]  Nor should we forget those brought here forcibly, beginning in the sixteenth century and going forward.    Slaves, however, were not immigrants.  Considered chattel and property, they had no rights whatsoever.https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/09/slaves-werent-immigrants-they-were-property/

[3] From Sojourner’s, The Theology of Migration, and as quoted from Immigration Advocate Karen Gonzales, “The story of the Bible isn’t just a story of moving from being lost to being saved, but it’s one of being a foreigner and moving toward being part of the family of God to belonging. And that’s a trajectory we can see throughout the scriptures from the very beginning when we meet Abraham — God is asking him to migrate, and we see he and Sarah’s vulnerability in Egypt. Over and over again the scripture restates some 83 times … that we’re to treat the immigrant as ourselves, we’re to love the immigrant as ourselves, we’re to do justice for the immigrant…”  https://sojo.net/media/theology-migration


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