America needs immigrants to remain strong

Let's flush all the current political, legal and race-based trash out of our minds and consider would-be immigrants as people with certain goals and incentives. Why would they embark on a hazardous journey from central America to the U.S. border, wagering all their savings and resources on the uncertain chance that they might be able to cross that border to live and work in the U.S.? And how is that reason important enough that they would bring family and children to share the risks? Why would they accept the fact that they would probably be restricted to menial, low-paying jobs, usually with adults working long hours at the scutwork disdained by U.S. citizens?

Do they perhaps have the same goals as the settlers at Jamestown or Massachusetts, the goal of being free to reach as far as their abilities permit, and to establish a foundation upon which their children can build? No migrant expects to become a millionaire, but he knows that one of his children or grandchildren may achieve that pinnacle. He or she accepts a lifetime of bias and hard work to further that possibility.

The qualities of character that inspire such people are the same ones that urged the first three shiploads of English immigrants to tear themselves away from familiar shores and take their chances on the unknown shores of Virginia. These settlers took only their tools and their skills to an unexplored land teeming (or so they thought) with savage enemies.

The same qualities pushed the immigrants at Plymouth Rock to declare themselves free of mandatory religious practices, and to establish their own colony in an unknown land. Our first settlers were driven to try to improve their lives, and to enhance the opportunities for their children and their children's children.

Many writers of history have asserted that our success as a nation is due to the personal characteristics that inspired our ancestors to leave their native nations and make new starts in the U.S. They say that the genes which enabled risk-taking, innovation and the desire for upward mobility were passed down through the centuries, and have kept our nation great.

Well, our drive may now be wearing out. Our best and most courageous have been frittered away in various wars, some just, some frivolous and corrupt. The least courageous and the less honorable have stayed on safe soil, and are now the benefactors of the sacrifices of their betters. They seem to be dominant in the current ruling circles of the nation.

Maybe we need a new infusion of the adventurous spirit that built this nation into the one which is now a goal for foreign-born risk-takers. Maybe these annoying gate-crashers can furnish a new dose of the old-fashioned work ethic, and the willingness to give a full day's work for a day's pay. Maybe having such workers in our industry would let us compete with foreign nations' cheap labor. And it would be nice if employers, who now can't satisfactorily fill entry-level jobs, could say to their disinclined domestic applicants, "Sign up or move on — I've got willing people waiting."

Don Neal is a retired soldier and occupational safety professional who has lived in Alaska for 47 years, currently in Anchorage.

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