Re: the April 10 cartoon "We are a nation of Legal Immigrants."
I hear this all the time!"My ancestors were immigrants but they came legally."
My own father came from Norway in the 1920s, and I used to think this too. Yes, he did come "legally," but mostly because Northern Europeans were seen as desirable. Immigration laws were passed in the 1920s to limit "inferior stock" ("dark skinned, lazy") from eastern and southern Europe. Gradually, southern Europeans were included in the white category. Those who continued to be denied equal status were marked and measured as racially different—Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and Native peoples.
So the next time someone extols "legal" immigration, just remember that racist assumptions have long factored into our immigration policies. And "whiteness" has been the overarching standard for "legal."
Disclaimer: As submitted to the Arizona Daily Star.