I have watched the current anti-immigration talk from candidates like Donald Trump and it has disturbed me. I understand that some American workers may be angry if they think immigrants are taking their jobs, but we are a nation of immigrants and we should not close the door on people who are trying to do the same thing our ancestors did.
Here’s what I learned about Irish immigration in my research for my “Rose Of Skibbereen” books.
Ireland in the 19th century could not support its population. The potato famine made the situation desperate, forcing poor families to send their children away. None of them really wanted to go. They would hold “American Wakes”, like the one I portray in the first "Rose Of Skibbereen" book, and these gatherings were called wakes for a sad reason -- the families felt they were burying their sons and daughters because they knew they would never see them again.
And it was true. My great-grandmother came to America when she was just a teenager, and although she lived until her eighties she never saw her parents or her homeland again. It was not an easy thing for these immigrants to leave a place where their families had roots stretching back hundreds of years.
They left their families and came to this country, starting at the bottom rung of the ladder and enduring much hardship and even persecution. They did it because they were seeking a better life than what they had in their homeland. The first generations usually didn't see much improvement over the life they left behind, but their sons and daughters achieved a better life. That's certainly what happened in my family
I know there are some different issues today than there were 150 years ago but there are also similarities, even to the cry of, “They’re taking our jobs!”. People are still coming here for the same reasons they always did, it hasn’t been easy for them or us, but in the end it’s made America stronger and given a better life to millions.
We should remember that when politicians talk about shutting the door.