The United States of America prides itself on being “a land of immigrants” - with that famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty capturing the popular sense of our being a welcoming land: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…
And yet, there have been fewer issues more divisive than the issue of who really belongs here. Indeed, since the first Europeans set foot in America, each wave of immigration has been met with a mixture of welcome, caution, and hostility by those who came before.
Many Americans speak of being deserving of the country by virtue of being here as a family for decades. Others point out that, except for full-blooded Native Americans, everyone in the United States is an immigrant, or the descendent of immigrants. From a Native American perspective, one may raise the question of whether anyone from Europe or Africa or Asia can claim a right to truly belong to this land.
In today’s United States, the argument over immigration is primarily related to those who come from “south of the border,” although since 9/11 immigration from Muslim-majority lands has also been controversial.