Migration As History

About a half mile from my front porch on East Beach on St. Simons Island, I can see the location of an historic battle.

On July 7, 1742, 650 English and Scottish Highlanders under Gen. Oglethorpe ambushed Spanish Governor Montiano’s invasion force of 2,000 crack infantry. The Spanish were badly mauled, and withdrew to St. Augustine, never to return. It was called the “Battle of Bloody Marsh.” In a sense, these early attempts at colonization relate to immigration issues facing the world today.

A look at history will prove that what we are dealing with is not immigration but migration. Migration has shaped the world as we know it from the beginning of time.

Our ancestors came out of Africa millions of years ago and populated the world. Migration births a tide that’s hard to turn back. People migrate to other parts of the globe because they’re looking for a better life.

Fifty years before Christ, people in Gaul (France) were faced with Germanic hordes flowing into their territory from north of the Rhine River. The Gallic tribes had no standing army and in desperation they called for help from their more civilized neighbors in Italy.

Rome sent Gen. Julius Caesar with an organized army to help stem the tide. For almost 10 years, Caesar battled the Germans, eventually sending them back across the Rhine. When he finished, Caesar and the Romans found they liked Gaul, and stayed another 500 years. German migration finally won out when Rome was sacked in 470, and the Roman Empire fell from history.

Our own country was settled by migration from Europe, beginning in 1492 when Columbus discovered the West Indies. Unlike the Gauls, the native population had no one to call on for help against the Europeans. Conquistadors came into the Americas with guns and horses to help overthrow local populations.

But the invaders’ strongest weapon was disease. In Europe, people lived in close proximity to animals and had developed immunities to many of the diseases they spread. Also, Europeans had developed resistance to one another’s colds and other ailments.

Unlike Europeans, Indians did not live close to their animals and had no physical defense against European illnesses. When De Soto, Pizarro and Cortez (also spelled Cortes) landed in the Americas, they brought with them smallpox carried by the pigs, horses and mules that traveled with them.

One of history’s great mysteries is how Cortez in Mexico and Pizarro in Peru, armed with only small detachments of 600 troops, were able to conquer civilizations made up of millions of indigenous, native peoples. When Cortez landed his small force on the coast of Central Mexico, its population was estimated at 25.2 million people. Almost from the moment of contact, a smallpox pandemic raged through the region.

The capital city of Montezuma lost a third of its population – including most local generals and leaders – even before Cortez arrived there. The local government collapsed and what native rulers were left capitulated Aug. 21, 1521.

The smallpox epidemic continued unabated, and 100 years later, Mexico’s population was only 730,000. According to the recent best seller “1491” by Charles Mann, smallpox, measles, and influenza wiped out more than 90 percent of the North and South American Indian populations less than 100 years after the Spanish invasion. This fact made European migrations easier because there were fewer natives around to resist invasions.

Today migration continues unabated. On a recent trip to England, we learned of large Russian relocations to London, including the takeover of major companies, hotels and sports teams.

This follows a wave of Muslim immigration over the last 20 years to that same area, which still continues. In 50 years, it is projected that fewer than 50 percent of original Europeans will remain in their countries. Europeans will be in the minority.

On a visit to Patagonia, in South America, we learned that the Chinese are migrating to Chile and buying up all the copper mines. If you go through the Panama Canal, you will see Chinese workers manning the locks. Large numbers of Japanese have moved into Brazil and Peru. In the city of Iquitos, Peru, in the Amazon rainforest, we found almost exclusively Japanese restaurants and beauty salons.

Migration isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. It’s been a natural part of our world throughout mankind’s history on the planet. There are realistic solutions to managing migration, immigration and illegal immigration.

In the United States, federal officials estimate we need to bring into our country 500,000 unskilled laborers to meet existing demand. The cap now allows for only 5,000 visas. Our political leadership must find a way to manage this issue. We need a legalization road map with smart enforcement.

The tide of migration is hard to turn back. The Statue of Liberty represents the belief that America welcomes all to our shores and proclaims to the world that our county believes in the implicit equality and liberty of all its people.

And people from all over the world want to come here and be a part of the American dream. It’s up to our leaders to form a workable process to make that dream come true and, most important, be accepted by all Americans.

Categories: Neely Young