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The tide

Nov 10, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

There is no stopping the energetic effect of American immigration

The most vexing questions about immigration do not apply so strongly in Wyoming as in other states, those to the south of us or on the coasts.

But immigration issues are American issues, affecting many parts of our lives in Wyoming even if we are not immediately aware.

Some say immigration is changing this country to an extent that hasn't been seen in more than 100 years. And there is little doubt that immigration as a political issue is being talked about more in the past five years than in the past 50.

Central Wyoming College hosted its October "hot topics" get-together on the subject of immigration not long ago. (The sessions are valuable and a worthy endeavor by Fremont County's community college, and it would be a good idea to organize a segment of the series in Lander once in awhile.)

Many in Wyoming and the rest of the nation still entertain the notion that the United States may turn its back on immigration to a large extent, the better to "preserve" some sense of a previous American demographic and the supposed security and stability that went with it.

Forget about that. Simply forget about it. There is no going back now. And here's a bulletin -- there never has been any going back.

We, of course, are a nation created through immigration. And we are a nation being re-created, perhaps, by immigration as well. Some say that in fear, others in celebration.

Part of that reality, if not lost on us in Wyoming, at least is misplaced, because of our relative isolation from the sorts of immigration-related effects and consequences that are so big elsewhere. Never was that more clearly illustrated then one year ago this week, when the 2012 presidential election was culminating. An astounding number of Fremont County residents were dead-solid certain that Barack Obama would not be re-elected president. In our more or less homogenous state, that thought handed his opponent a bigger percentage of the vote than any other state but one, which clearly was easy to believe.

But in much of the rest of the country, things are just the opposite. A newspaper reader stood on a major university campus not long ago during a busy mid-morning hour when classes were letting out. A thundering herd of young people moved among the buildings.

The collection of faces reflected every race and ethnicity on earth. Amid the chatter could be heard accents from every continent save Antarctica. No dominant physical trait could be identified beyond arms and legs.

"Look at this," said the newspaper reader to his fellow visitor. "How could anyone see this and try to take a position against immigration?"

Excellent point. Incontrovertible point. The young faces in these crowds of youth are not just the faces of their national, ethnic and racial origins. They are the faces of the future. The American future.

We may live in a state where the faces are not so varied, but we live in a nation where the diversity is undeniable, unquenchable and growing.

The planners of the Central Wyoming College lunchtime discussion are correct. Immigration is a "hot topic."

And the heat comes not in trying to stop it, but in figuring out how to live with it and, better yet, to understand and embrace it.

To do otherwise is both defeatist and useless. It also denies our own past. This is our country, and it always has been. Immigration again is defining us to a degree of complexity and momentum that cannot be explained away by a bumper sticker or an alarmist quote from a cable TV analyst. To try that is a waste of time -- and, judging from the faces in the busy, ambitious, ever-diversifying American crowd, there is no time to waste.

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