Annie Moore was the first immigrant processed through Ellis Island when it opened on Jan. 1, 1892.
The 15-year-old was not accompanied by an adult. She came to America with two younger brothers from County Cork in Ireland. Her parents had made their way to these shores several years earlier and were waiting for her and her siblings.
But that wasn’t the case for thousands of other unaccompanied children. Most were orphans whose passage was paid by relief societies. Others were stowaways. None had received permission from the United States to immigrate here.
There were protests from citizens that these “illegal” immigrants were disease-ridden and would take jobs away from Americans. That said, no unaccompanied child 16 and under left Ellis Island without first having their fate decided. They were put in special detention and subject to federal hearings. And only if they had a sponsor — relief societies and churches of the day often stepped up — they did not leave Ellis Island.
Fast forward to today.
There are 3,900 unaccompanied minors that made their way from Central America to the United States and are now being housed in California. They are among the 70,000 plus children that have crossed into the United States and who have been detained by the border patrol since the start of the 2013 fiscal year. That is in addition to families with at least one parent that have made their way north.
We have no Ellis Island today. With modern travel it is virtually impossible to have one point of entry.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue of kids by themselves sneaking illegally into this country this isn’t the first time nor is it the last.
The “crisis” at our southern border didn’t happen overnight. There were 25,000 plus kids from Central America that walked across our border with Mexico without being accompanied by an adult in 2013.
There are legal immigrants who have waited for years to be processed as naturalized citizens.
We issue countless visas to foreigners who come here to be trained as engineers and doctors to be educated at universities and when some of them decide they’d like to stay, we reject their applications and send them packing as well as all of the skills that they learned. Not only do they often have critical skills in short supply here but they often go to work in industries in foreign lands that compete directly with America.
All of this we could trace to crazy federal rules and laws plus a bureaucracy that moves slower than a glacier except for one thing: Rich foreigners can buy express service citizenship. It’s called EB-5. For as little as a $500,000 investment into concerns that will generate at least 10 jobs in hard hit economic regions of this country — or $1 million elsewhere — an applicant can get a green card for themselves and their family within 10 to 14 months. And after five years they are eligible for citizenship.
One such EB 5 project — the 1,400-plus home Trails at Manteca— is being pursued by Next Bay Properties on Woodward Avenue just south of the gated Oakwood Shores community.
The firm has invested $10 million. They are now in the process of securing their final map. Once they do, they intend to use wealthy foreigners seeking United States green cards and ultimately citizenship status to bankroll the infrastructure and initial construction cost of new homes.
This is not in our backyard. It’s in Manteca.
It’s understandable why some are getting incensed about the flood of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States. And it’s hard not to see many of their points.
However for this country to give the rich that want to come here the red carpet treatment while we shun the poor seems un-American.
No one is saying give carte blanche access to our taxpayer financed services to anyone that comes into this country illegally.
But it would be nice if we figured out what we are doing.
Refugees have fled to this country in large numbers during modern times — the Hmongs, the Vietnamese, and Cubans among others.
In the long run you can make an argument they have helped bolster our economy although they certainly were a drain on our services in the early years.
In each case Congress — and that includes both the majority of Democrats and Republicans — were on board for the refuges to immigrate here.
In each case they were from countries that we actively intervened with either in a war or a major political confrontation. The same case could be made about Central Americans and our wildly unsuccessful war on drugs.
This is not to advocate one way or the other on whether Central American kids who walked into this country on their own with no legal permission to do so should eventually be deported.
It’s just that if we are going to stand in front of buses transporting Central American youth here illegally we might do the same for the rich arriving in jets to buy their way into American citizenship.
The major difference between the unaccompanied kids and the rich foreigners seeking to come here is money and the fact they were able to get Congress on their side.
It kind of adds an entire new meaning to the phrase “Buy American.”
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.