Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bigots' Lament: `They Keep Coming'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bigots' Lament: `They Keep Coming'

Article excerpt

When Guido Calabresi was sworn in as a judge in Connecticut on the 55th anniversary of the day his family arrived in the United States, his speech included this assessment of America: "Our tragic moments - for which we are still paying and will long pay - are those times when our laws furthered bigotry and discrimination."

The words of the immigrant boy, once dean of Yale Law School, now sitting on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, describe well Proposition 187, which Californians will consider on Election Day.

The measure would attack the very real crisis the state faces because of its enormous influx of illegal immigrants by denying them most government services, including medical care and public schooling, systematically creating an underclass of illiterate and unhealthy residents and turning doctors and teachers into moles for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Proponents of the measure argue that this would dissuade Mexicans from swarming over California borders. If they really believe that, they are blind to why generation upon generation of the optimistic unwelcome have decided to adopt America while America has derided them.

Our nation is a coast-to-coast contradiction, a country populated by a potpourri of onetime outsiders that has nevertheless always harbored a deep-seated xenophobia. "They keep coming," said one of Gov. Pete Wilson's re-election commercials. Yep, and they always have. If they hadn't, half of me would be in Italy, the other half in Ireland.

Wilson says there is "a real sense of rage" about immigration. Surely he must know that rage is as old as our history, as old as this 1830 ad from The New York Evening Post: "Wanted - a cook or chambermaid. She must be American Scotch, Swiss or African - no Irish."

When my Italian grandparents arrived in this country, their English was poor and they poorer. Some of their daughter's most vivid memories of her childhood were of being called "dago" and "guinea" by other children. Yet somehow their descendants prospered, just as the grocery store Cuomos became the governor's mansion Cuomos, the hot-dog stand Iacoccas the Chrysler Corp. …

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