New to talking about immigration? Here are 5 truths you should know. - Define American

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New to talking about immigration? Here are 5 truths you should know.

WELCOME! We always appreciate meeting people who are new to the immigration debate and others who are looking for new conversation topics to bring their friends and family along.

We present 5 truths with which to guide and ground your conversations:

1. By today’s rules,  your great-grandmother may have been denied at Ellis Island. Millions of Americans are proud of their immigrant heritage and can even trace their family journeys to iconic American landmarks – Ellis Island and a welcoming Statue of Liberty.  One major difference between immigration today and when a large number of Europeans were coming through Ellis Island, is that up until 1918, there was no federal oversight  and for decades after that, officials didn’t require the papers that are required today. Check out Bend the Arc's quiz to see if your ancestor would have been denied.

2. Why we love hamburgers, bilingualism and the news. High emigration from Germany to the United States in the late 19th century equaled or exceeded modern Mexican migration. Between the 1830s and 1890s – 6 million-plus Germans arrived in the United States. Many kept up their language for as long as five generations which is why there were about 800 German newspapers by the 1880s – four of every five foreign-language newspapers in the US! The word “hamburger” after the town of the town “Hamburg” originated from German immigrants and dates back to the late 1880′s. Today, German Americans comrpise the largest immigrant diaspora group in the United States in terms of ethnic origin and ancestry and German language newspapers have dwindled, but still remain.

3. Our hearts say, keep children and families together! Sadly our laws haven't caught up. A total of 16.6 million people in the US live in "mixed-status" families—with at least one undocumented American in the household. Annually, more than 90,000 parents of U.S. citizen kids are deported; if the 2012 rate of deportation continues in 2013, 152,000 U.S. citizen children this year will have a parent detained or deported. If the rate continues, an estimated 43,000 U.S.-citizen children, per year, will experience a decline in their health status due to change in household income associated with the absence of a primary earner.

4. How we value and connect with people and their work says a lot about us. It takes a lot of skill, hard labor and dedication to: harvest fruits and vegetables; build and re-build our communities especially after natural devastation; and very importantly; care for our very young and elderly family members when we need help or are not able. We’re all connected to the economy and to the benefit of this work and should therefore consider the value and rights of our neighbors, community members and loved ones doing it.

5. America has ALWAYS been in a state of becoming. America’s story is very complex and changing. In fact the only constant through history has been change. Even our shared aspirational values and the shaping of the big story of who we are have been dynamic. Now that we are in the golden age of storytelling, many of us who are fortunate – can be informed by the stories of our families and friends and their connections to history.  Our stories are as different as we are. Some of our stories are about immigration and adventure, others are about enslavement and freedom, others about land occupation, forced migration and fighting for rights and sovereignty, other stories are about creativity, industry and heroism, and so on. We want to hear your story – where do you plug in? What do you believe? How do you Define American?

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