Richard e Hill - a Writer's Journal

Immigration and Expansion: There Goes the Neighborhood

Selected opinions from a seeking mind

Immigration and Expansion: There Goes the Neighborhood

My favorite residence, commodious high-rises and luxury resorts notwithstanding, was a large irregular shaped bungalow on a corner double lot in the mid-Southside of Chicago. Migrating songbirds nested and visited the five trees while colorful butterflies darted thru the air that was polluted only when directing winds blew the stench of the manure piles from the stockyards five miles away. Environmental incorrect coal burning furnaces were pervasive and coke referred to a soft drink or a high grade distilled variety of coal for industrial use. Everyone knew everyone and their pets in the four by four square blocks that loosely defined a neighborhood known by a landmark; ours was the lumberyard. The Robert Frost adage, “good fences make good neighbors” rang hollow as all neighbors watched your back including the grumpy old man nicknamed Mr. Meany who trained his large guard dogs to retrieve and return a wayward ball or toy.  Crimes such as burglaries or robberies were infrequent due to the watchful eyes of neighbors, beat patrolling policemen, and nearly every household had at least one firearm. Vagabonds and strangers were admonished with, “Who you looking for or what do you want?”

This multi-cultural, racial diverse  enclave where people were referred to by their ethnicity i.e. the Alabama blues men and Kansas City players, who frequented the home of the Jazz great that lived two houses away; the Italian collectors, pronounced with a beginning long “I” sound who stopped at the sporting house; the German beer truck drivers, the Jewish bakers who gave doughnut holes to the children, Three Finger Greek George the fruit and vegetable man with the horse drawn converted stagecoach; the derby hatted Irish political boss, and those itinerating “sneaky gypsies” who followed the traveling carnival. Decay, blight, flight, urban renewal and eminent domain, the abattoirs of social change relocated the families of “the old neighborhood” when I was 10 years old.

Subsequent youthful relocations were harbingers of violence with less ethnic diversity and long time resident tenure stability, as sidewalk hop scotch diagrams and brick wall simulated baseball strike zones were replaced by the  apocalyptic hieroglyphics of spray painted gang signs. Children once joyfully ducking and hiding to play games segued to quaking in fear while executing scrambling survival techniques and tearfully staring through bullet hole riddled window panes.

The childhood neighborhoods were a microcosm of the English settlers arrival and displacement of firmly rooted organized aboriginal communities. Before the fruited plains, purple mountain majesty and sea to sea habitant of the USA there were neighboring colonial settlements in America. The Spanish in Florida and Southwestern regions, the French in  Canada and near the Great Lakes; the oldest city in the USA is St Augustine Florida founded by the Spanish in 1565, more than four decades before the first successful English colony, Jamestown Virginia. Military conflicts with the Native Americans, treaties, purchases and Wars finally established the borders of this, the world’s current third largest country in area with Russia first, Canada second, China fourth and Brazil being fifth. When treaties and purchases were enacted many occupants did not leave an area in the forced manner commonly associated with Indians. This is reflected in the former Spanish regions of the Southwest where communities have an ethnic heritage of several hundred years predating military action, Manifest Destiny, “renegotiated” boundaries.












The settling and expansion of the USA were aided by alliances; Indians, Prussia (now Germany) and France in the Revolutionary War, the French again in the War of 1812, and Mexico at the Alamo. The citizens of Bexar Texas were humiliated after assisting the defenders of the Alamo. Although incurring more than ten times the casualties of the ill-fated forces attempting to maintain the Alamo; the town was then further ravaged by an avenging inimical US led army. Remember the Alamo? Apparently not.

Nevertheless, Mexico (or Spanish controlled Mexico) has been a valiant decorated ally in every USA conflict (re: the exploits of General Gálvez in the Revolutionary War). To now ask them to stand in line with more distant less kindred countries is an affront. While many European and some Asian nations are being given lowered velvet rope, valet service entry into the USA, Mexico is asked to wait in line behind newly constructed fences and pass racially veiled ID checks. This underscores the perception that the Immigration Issue is in reality a Mexican Issue. Terrorism is also a real issue, but so are unemployment and inadequate social services. Who would be better suited to both watch our backs and assist in economic recovery than our closest neighbors?

The USA should partner with Mexico in rebuilding their respective economies. Mexicans would not come to the USA to pursue the dream of prosperity if they lived prosperously at home. Through mutual investment, a prosperous partner makes the best neighbor and ally; contrary to the adage, “Good fences make good neighbors”.

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