The Ongoing Immigration Debate Since Colonial Times


Mar 13

My article, The Immigration Debate Has Been Going on since Colonial Times as featured on NY Daily News.

The setting is 1610 in what is now called Virginia. The land is ruled by the powerful Pohatan tribe.

One of Chief Pohatan’s trusted braves and his brother Opecan (short for Opechancanough) request a council of tribal elders to discuss the problem of immigration.

The meeting takes place in the Chief’s tent early one morning during the phase of the new moon.

Opecan: Brother, we need to do something about these immigrants. They come in ships across the water illegally. This is our land and we did not invite them or give them permission. But they keep coming. First three ships followed by others. We need to enforce the laws of our land. They build foreign and illegal structures; they pollute our water and land; they don’t speak our language. They don’t even try to learn our language.

Morning Flower (another brother): Opecan is right. They should follow the rules of the tribe that governs our land. They should be captured and forced to leave. Can we build a wall to keep them out?

Opecan: We must be getting the worst of the immigrants. They are all criminals. They steal our food.

Morning Flower: And they bring diseases from their homeland. Have you noticed how many braves have become sick since the immigrants arrived? They are unclean.

Chief Pohatan: But they bring metal tools and are hard workers. We can trade with them. Our economy may be better with them. We did not have guns before we met the immigrants. And we cannot build a wall; our coastline is too long and they would just go around the wall.

Opecan: Our women are at risk. Soon they will be taking our women. Most of them are men; their women mostly stayed in their home country.

Morning Flower: And they will have children and want to stay here. We must act now.

Opocasimo (another brother): My brother, they will take down our forests and plow fields, depriving us of our work and livelihood. Food will become scarce. There will be nothing for our braves to do.

Morning Flower: They are not like us. They do not respect our traditions or history. They do not look like us. They are foreigners. Soon they will turn their guns on us and become terrorists. If we do not act they will outnumber us and destroy our culture.

Opecan: When they arrived, they did not grow corn to feed themselves. They searched the countryside for shiny metal, which does not feed anyone. They are stupid. They don’t know our basic chants or dances. They are illiterate. They will never assimilate to our culture. My brother, if we do not move quickly to expel these illegal and despicable immigrants, our culture and traditions will forever be lost.

Chief Pohatan: There are so many now it is difficult to make them go away. I will instruct our brothers in the Paspahegh tribe near the immigrants’ village to contain the foreigners. If they stray far from their village, we will round them up and capture or kill them.

Postscript: In 1622, then-Chief Opechancanough led the Powhatan to massacre many of the colonists in an attempt to drive them away but ultimately failed.

Now, 400 years later, current Americans, who are descendants of the prior European immigrants, are complaining about what to do with more recent illegal immigrants.

Please take a moment to also visit NY Daily News where this article was originally published on 8 March, 2017.

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