Not All Refugees

I don't know what history books the Times' travel editors are reading that would prompt them to declare "we are all refugees" in the title heading of the article on Ellis Island. This serves to perpetuate several myths about America's past.

Myth one: Immigration was largely European. Myth two: America was the land of hope and opportunity for all newcomers. Myth three: European immigrants were responsible for the growth and development of America.

Now the facts. Europe was not the "ancestral home" for millions of Americans. African-Americans, Asians and Mexicans did not pass through the hallowed portals of Ellis Island. Blacks were forcibly brought here in chains as slaves.

They suffered 300 years of slavery, disenfranchisement and economic peonage. The Asian and Mexican immigrants who came to America were mostly contract laborers.

They suffered brutal and inhuman conditions while working in the fields and on railroad construction.

Their social and economic status in America was hardly better than that of blacks.

Despite the obstacles, the contributions that blacks, Asians and Mexicans have made to the economic and political cultural growth of America have been just as vital and enduring as those made by the European immigrants.

Now I have two questions:

Will the government honor them with an Ellis Island-style monument?

And will the Times feature a travel piece on the quite different paths they took to America?


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