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Yo creo en los EE.UU.

Matt Bramanti | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

“I believe in America,” the Italian-born undertaker says. “America has made my fortune.” That’s the first line from “The Godfather,” and it’s a poignant expression of a faith that it sadly lacking today. Why do hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants risk prison, even death, to sneak across our southern border every year? They’re not on their way to Canada. They have seen, like generations of immigrants before them – from all corners of the earth – that this is a place where anyone can succeed.Immigrants exemplify the American Dream: starting from scratch in a new place, hoping to make a better life for their families. We shouldn’t close our borders to these people.I’ve heard the arguments for restricting immigration. One of the most common is this: they’ll take our jobs. I don’t like that kind of thinking. The implication is that native-born Americans are entitled, that the rest of the world should bicker over the scraps from Uncle Sam’s table. But what anti-immigration people tend to forget is that nearly all of us are descended from immigrants.Americans are mutts. We come from all over the world. We don’t have a rigid class system, where birth or breeding is a guarantee of failure or success. If we work, we get to reap the fruits of that labor. If we don’t, we fall behind. Ricardo and Juana should get the same shot at the American Dream that Dick and Jane get.I’m not some starry-eyed idealist, though. I realize that we need to protect our borders, especially in this age of international terrorism. And we should keep an eye on people who come into this country. Some people come here and get in trouble with the law. Some of them exploit government handouts. Some refuse to submit to periodic checks. We should have no tolerance for people who won’t play by the rules, because they only make it harder for those who do.Yes, an influx of cheap labor tends to reduce wages overall. But free enterprise – the cornerstone of the American economy – has led to mind-boggling prosperity all along the economic spectrum.A good deal of this prosperity is because people are willing to come here for a chance at success. I’ve seen it up close. As a Texan, I’ve seen the great contributions Hispanic immigrants have made. As the great-grandson of Italian immigrants, I hope to make those contributions myself.Immigrants and this country will move upwards together, if we give them a chance to believe in America.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Matt Bramanti at bramanti.1@nd.edu.