December 9, 2013
Source: The Daily Astorian
Just as the strongest and most useful metals are alloys made of many elements, communities also are improved and strengthened when diverse ethnic groups are bonded together. That’s what we’re seeing as Hispanic people increasingly put down roots and settle into American life in the Columbia-Pacific region.
About 4,800 Hispanic residents in Clatsop and Pacific counties easily constitute our region’s largest new population segment. Usually possessing a solid work ethic and a belief in cohesive families, Hispanic people are a notable factor in coastal industries and rising school enrollment.
There are numerous examples around the globe of nations that do immigration poorly. A large North African population in France is bitter and restive. Japan is shrinking and losing economic might due to an aversion to immigration of any sort. And the list of bad examples goes on.
Less than a century ago, the Pacific Northwest was repellent to new residents. Chinese and East Indian people were the brunt of violent expulsion drives. Loyal Japanese-Americans were targeted for dispossession and abuse during World War II.
The local process of integration for today’s Hispanic people is imperfect and still prone to bouts of prejudice. However, it’s possible to say that we’ve come a long way in understanding that we’re all just human beings trying to make our way through life. Certainly some Hispanic workers lack legal immigration status. But for the most part, they hold down vital jobs in a variety of industries, have American-born children, and have every intention of spending the rest of their lives here.
An invigorated Lower Columbia Hispanic Council is playing a prominent role in aiding this process. As we reported last Thursday, this council is helping pave the way to success via access to English lessons, obtaining GED diplomas, working on citizenship requirements and facilitating Clatsop Community College attendance.
To have something like the Hispanic council is a major benefit to all area residents regardless of ethnicity. It follows in a long tradition of groups like the Finnish Brotherhood and Sons of Norway that smoothed the path to full participation in American life by prior generations of new immigrants.
Our nation will be nothing but improved whenever Congress takes rational steps to provide a fair path to 100 percent bona fide U.S. citizenship for all these people who are trying their best to join the great American story.