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A National Holiday To Honor America's Immigrants

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Message Lawrence Fiarman
My favorite national holiday is the Fourth of July. I enjoy all our national holidays, but I think my next favorite national holiday would become one we don't have yet.

Our national holidays commemorate the birth of our nation, and honor our veterans, presidents, and great civilian leaders such as Martin Luther King. We honor with a holiday those who served our country and those who died in military service.

But there isn't a holiday to honor those who actually built America, our immigrants.

My four grandparents were immigrants to the United States. They came here legally about a hundred years ago. They came not to seek prosperity, just to get by, but they found prosperity anyway. This country is so generous. Grandpa's brother couldn't come here legally, so he immigrated to Argentina instead. His family had to settle for less; they missed the golden prize.

I admire my grandparents for transplanting their lives and moving to a strange land where they didn't know anyone, didn't know the language, and didn't know what would become of them. It must have been frightening, stressful and yet exhilarating.

You had ancestors who came to America. Did your relatives arrive 150 years ago? Were they on the Mayflower 400 years ago? I have a friend whose family arrived on the seventh ship after the Mayflower. Did your ancestors voyage here chained to sinful slave ships? Perhaps they were the very first immigrants, the so-called "native Americans," who came from Asia, across the frozen Bering Sea, down through Alaska 11,000 years ago, to find a lonely, lush land. Unselfishly, the continent welcomed everyone.

Maybe you came more recently. Near my wife's parents lives a fine family who came from Bosnia a few years ago.

Yes, your people came here as did mine. People still come, mostly for the same reasons. Make a living. Raise a family. Political freedom. Religious freedom. Prosperity? Well, to have those is prosperity.

So I have great respect for those who came to America and great compassion for those who want to come here now. They want to come for the same reasons we're proud to be Americans.

But people should come to America legally. We are a compassionate people, but respectful of laws.

The U.S. Border Patrol estimated 4 million people crossed our borders illegally in 2002, the last year official statistics were made public. The number is rising yearly. Although the law forbids it, many employers eagerly hire illegal immigrants so they can pay lower wages the workers are desperate to accept. Selfishly ignoring the law, whether to come here illegally or to hire those who do, dishonors America and her immigrants.

A national holiday in tribute to America's immigrants should be in January. January symbolizes a new start. Our immigrant ancestors started a new life by coming here and built a strong new nation, which we lovingly preserve. Every American is an immigrant or descended from them. A nation indebted to immigrants should commemorate them every year with a holiday in their honor.
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Lawrence Fiarman is a freelance writer and former columnist for the local newspaper in his midwestern hometown.
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