Listening to the politicians’ ongoing arguments over immigration, something occurred to me: If it had been illegal for immigrants to bring other family members to this country 100 years ago, there would be no me.
Because I’m a byproduct of what’s being derisively called “chain migration.”
The first link in the chain was my great-uncle who came here from somewhere in Europe in the first quarter of the 20th century. We think it was Romania, but it might have been one of those other places that nativists back then thought of as “s—-holes.”
Wherever it was, my great-uncle eventually sent for his younger brother, who somehow wound up in Cleveland, where he got a job as a baker, achieved citizenship and married an American woman of German extraction.
They had a daughter and then a son. The son grew up, went to college and became a high school teacher. The daughter married a man of German extraction and they had two sons. One grew up and became a commercial airline pilot. The other one became me.
My mother divorced and then married a man of Scotch-Irish extraction. They had a daughter who grew up and became a librarian.
And the chain was extended.
I married a woman whose forebears came here from Poland. We had four children who now are:
— A retired firefighter who saved lives and property.
— A middle school teacher counselor who guides children.
— A president of an international firm that assists American companies in dealings with other countries. Including, ironically, Romania.
— A Realtor who facilitates the American dream of home ownership.
Between them, they’ve produced eight more links in the chain, including two African-Americans. It’s too soon to say what all those children will grow up to be, although two are members of the National Honor Society.
Those are the kind of results you might get if you allow chain migration: a baker. A high school teacher. A pilot, a newspaper writer, a librarian. A firefighter, a school counselor, a business executive and a Realtor.
So far, no one in the chain has turned out to be a felon. No one in the chain became a terrorist. No one belonged to a gang. (I will admit to having been a member of the Shiloh Athletic Club, but there wasn’t a lot of violence involved. Mostly we just sat on bar stools and grumbled about the Browns.)
There’s nothing really all that remarkable about my family’s chain. There are millions of others in this country just like it. And there’s a name for what all those chains have produced.