Texas is under intense stress. You know it. You have seen the news – the El Paso shooting at Walmart, the conditions at the border. In the wake of these tragedies, perhaps Texans have forgotten where we originate, and who our state represents. Your history books in grade school had an entire section dedicated to mass immigration through Ellis Island, but did it go into detail about the immigration movements to Texas? Probably not.
Texas started out as a Republic in the 1830s and did a lot of positive things including taking down a dictator from power in Mexico, setting up schools, making strides for peace between the Native Americans. Texas’s leader in this brief period after the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston, was a proponent of such peace. Even though Texas had established independence and had set up a government, however, this new nation was in a great deal of debt. Houston needed to incite entrepreneurship, so he agreed to immigration plans.
This wave of immigration brought in a variety of Europeans – contracts included “1,000 families of Germans, Swiss, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, and Dutch immigrants [to settle] between the Llano and Colorado rivers.” The most successful of these movements was the one led by the Adelsverein (The Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas). With their assistance, Germans settled land people now know as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. I actually descend from one of those immigrants who came through during this movement – an army doctor named Christian Althaus who in 1847 set sail to Fredreicksburg along with many other German immigrants. Althaus was a doctor in the truest sense – helping where help was needed without prejudice. He offered medical treatment to Native Americans and distributed food to them as a government agent. As stated in the Texas Handbook online, he followed the creed “be friendly and never pull a gun.” He also dabbled in business selling supplies to Forty-niners making the trek to California for gold.
As noted in the Library of Congress, The Spaniards colonized Mexico and regions within the southwest that are now part of the modern United States. In the mid 1800s the United States only covered so much (highlighted in pink).
The United States did not annex Texas into the union until 1845. With this land annexation came conflict, and war broke out between Mexico and the nation. Mexico was defeated, and with it came massive land expansion for the United States in a $15 million land purchase. Then another land expansion in 1854 into what we now know as Arizona and New Mexico. With these land purchases, came an adoption of Mexican immigrants into American society.
Mexican immigrants had to struggle through American domestication which included not getting what they were promised – guaranteed safety and property early on because it could not be enforced through the disconnected United States – a disconnection remedied by the folks that included Mexican immigrants who were willing to build railroads to connect our country. By the 1900s, the Mexican Revolution was underway, so immigrants fled into the United States for economic opportunity. They scrambled to survive and returned to Mexico when they felt stable. They have dealt with an American government that has not represented them and assimilation procedures that are arguably racist in nature. Their willingness to do the difficult, thankless jobs for low wages became a stigmatized truth. In essence, their journey and development in America has been one that is most American. They have been able to endure ongoing struggle. It is about time Americans own up to what they have put the the immigrant population through thus far. It has been a cycle of abuse. A cycle that we have the capability to break.
Instead of seeing immigration as a burden, we could look to it as an opportunity. An immigrant’s path to citizenship means more tax-payer dollars to contribute to public.
According to data collected in 2017 by the American Immigration Council, over half (59.5%) of all immigrants have a high school education or higher. We cannot assume that these immigrants are not worthy of occupation in the United States. They have been willing to fulfill the hard labor positions that others cannot or refuse to do. They are also involved in administration and other occupations that are not listed in this broad, generalized chart. There are leaders, artists, scientists among them waiting to emerge. If we assume for instance that the Alderverain were dangerous – then Christian Althaus would have never been able to practice as a doctor in Texas – a practice that helped both the Native American and the Immigrant population. It is possible to create a solution that can benefit both parties. Like Houston saw in the 1800s, immigration is an economic opportunity to bring immigrants into the workforce, or provide new services with new insight. Moreover, Mexico is a loyal trading partner.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative boasts Mexico as the “3rd largest goods trading partner with $611.5 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2018. Goods exports totaled $265.0 billion; goods imports totaled $346.5 billion. According to the Department of Commerce, U.S. exports of Goods and Services to Mexico supported an estimated 1.2 million jobs in 2015 (latest data available) (968 thousand supported by goods exports and 201 thousand supported by services exports).”
Our relationship with Mexico matters. It matters to people’s livelihoods. It matters our economy. Together we have the ability to crack down on what Trump hyperbolizes as a Mexican problem – the idea that immigrants coming across the border are all dangerous. He uses inflammatory rhetoric that I dare not repeat. Why would families risk life and limb to come to the United States knowing there is a measure in place against them? They must deem it worth the risk. That is something we must understand. There are issues in Mexico that influence their crossing. We should start a dialogue about those issues in order to solve them. There are those that smuggle drugs illegally past the border, and there are dangerous people that may want to enter into the United States. That does not, however, mean that dangerous and Mexican are synonymous. The moment we believe that is the moment we have let fear win over reason. That is the moment we have negated a history of diplomatic negotiation with Mexico. That is the moment we forget all that these immigrants have already done for Americans, things Americans were not willing to do for themselves. There is an opportunity here for Mexicans and Americans to work together to solve issues around crime.
The Native Americans held land in North America, then Spain held land, then later the rest of the world. We are not a nation of one. We are a nation of many. Immigrants and allies from other nations have been with us since the inception of Texas. I love Texas. I really do. Despite how I may disagree with its current politics, I’ll fight for a chance to work with the place that gave my German ancestors a home so many years ago. I do not believe people are fixed and that we are merely Republican, Democrats, Green Party, Libertarian, Independents. We are reasonable people who see problems and have the ability to utilize diplomacy. Despite what our individual views are we have to see that our conflict at the border and our greater conflict with immigration is a conflict that cannot just be shut out. Shutting out a problem does not solve it. Just like in life when you put up the proverbial wall, it only blocks you from seeing a problem, but the problem is still there. Problems stay until a person, a community, or people come together and decide to do something that actually solves. When we ignore, when we block – that is when the louder, domineering voices get the say, and their say currently doesn’t actually provide a well-crafted, diplomatic solution. It provides a flimsy bandage while the wound underneath festers.
American Immigration Council, “IMMIGRANTS IN TEXAS”, accessed August 08, 2019, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/immigrants-in-texas
Handbook of Texas Online, Barbara Donalson Althaus, “ALTHAUS, CHRISTIAN,” accessed August 09, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal78
Handbook of Texas Online, Joseph Milton Nance, “REPUBLIC OF TEXAS,” accessed August 15, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mzr02.
Library of Congress Online, ” MEXICAN – INTRODUCTION – IMMIGRATION,” accessed August 15, 2019, https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/mexican.html