“Today, we are belatedly, but resolutely, engaged in ending this condition of national exclusion and shame and abolishing forever the concept of second-class citizenship in the United States” – JFK
Cleveland, OH / Phoenix, AZ – Today marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was America’s first Irish-Catholic president and according to the Irish Central, Kennedy’s greatest legacy was proving that the Irish could be American, too. Mexican American Catholics and Latinos remember JFK as the first sitting president of the United States who chose to visit a Hispanic group 50 years ago last night. An avalanche of coverage began when Russell Contrerasunearthed clips and preserved Mexican American / Latino history by writing stories.
A “nativist” movement achieved prominence in the 1840s with their anti-Catholicism that led to mob violence, the burning of Catholic property, and the killing of Catholics. Irish Catholic immigrants were wrongfully blamed for spreading violence and drunkenness. And although Catholics mobilized and gave Kennedy from 75 to 80 percent of their votes. Kennedy was aware the Protestants feared the Pope would be giving orders to a Kennedy White House and said on September 12, 1960, “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.” He promised to respect the separation of church and state and not to allow Church officials to dictate public policy to him. Kennedy counterattacked Protest leaders by suggesting that it was bigotry to relegate one-quarter of all Americans to second-class citizenship just because they were Catholic.
50 years later we see that same bigotry continue and President John F. Kennedy’s prophetic concern remains today. There continues to be bigotry to relegate millions of immigrants who are hiding in the shadows of society with their second-class citizenship and it is no surprise to hear millions of those immigrants are Catholic.
But, today there is one man who is preventing progress that could help fix the broken immigration system this year and his name is Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Oddly enough, the Ohio Rep. Boehner is a member of the Catholic religion and his mother has both German and Irish ancestry. According to a newspaper of Ohio: Ohio’s Irish population numbers one-third the size of Ireland. A stern letter from Cardinal Timothy Dolan to Speaker Boehner with regard to moral urgency on immigration appears to be getting ignored.
On November 13, 2013, Boehner stated he has no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill that garnered bipartisan support. The Republican Party introduced their own version of an immigration bill via Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that grants temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants that also affects the Irish undocumented. Issa’s bill will only provide six years of legal status, a far cry from the Senate bill’s path to permanent citizenship.
Young immigrant advocates approached Speaker Boehner expressing urgency to no avail. Cardinal Dolan sent letter with regard to urgency to no avail. Ohio women and Hispanic voters across the Nation have expressed urgency to no avail. But now we appeal to the Irish community of Ohio to call Speaker Boehner and urge him to pass the bipartisan immigration reform bill recently passed by the Senate. Speaker Boehner is an alumnus of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and we are concerned with his ties to ALEC in light of their agenda to expand private prison systems and detaining immigrants with an evil idea to keep immigrants as second-class citizens. Immigrants pay into tax coffers yet receive no representation.
Nothing has worked to encourage Speaker Boehner to act. It appears his loyalty to the Republican Party takes precedence before God and fellow man. Therefore, and since Ohio has many Catholics and people of Irish descent, we hope you will call Speaker Boehner’s office and ask him to support the bipartisan immigration reform bill that was passed by the Senate several months ago.
Mexican-American / Latinos are doing all we can to push for legal immigration reform, and we know our population numbers and burgeoning voters will help provide cover for other ethnic immigrant groups to include but not limited to the Irish, Asians, Canadians, Indians and so forth.
Unfortunately, when you call Speaker Boehner’s office, you may receive voice mail. We urge you to leave a voice mail since theRepublican-led House of Representatives chose to take a 10 day Thanksgiving Break and will not resume in Washington until December 2, 2013.
Butler County Office: 7969 Cincinnati-Dayton Road, Suite B, West Chester, OH 45069
Phone: (513) 779-5400
Miami County Office: 12 South Plum Street, Troy, OH 45373
Phone: (937) 339-1524
Washington D.C.: Phone: (202) 225-0600
I’ll end with the below penned letter by an Irish and Immigrant Rights Activist:
As a proud Irish American, living in the United States, it saddens me greatly to hear the violent and heartless rhetoric espoused by those running for the opportunity to be the leader of one of the greatest nation in the world. A nation, mind you, built on immigrants. This country was built on the blood, sweat, tears and bones of those that came here looking for a better life, for themselves and their families.
We are a nation of immigrants, and our history has not always such a proud one. From the time when the first Europeans landed on these shores, it has been a battle for dominance and resources against the First-Americans and at the newly arrived immigrants. The immigrants that arrived here first, then tried to deny the same opportunity to the immigrants that came later, or to immigrants that they looked down upon already, whether for reasons of culture or religion.
Whatever nativist group sprung up, the Know-Nothings, the Klu Klux Klan, and now their ideological descendants; FAIR, Numbers USA, and ALIPAC, are trying the same old methods to destroy, deter and demean the new group of immigrants. However, our neighbors to the South have been here for quite some time and their history and culture permeates the United State in place names, surnames, food and music. Remarkably, most of Hispanics have been for hundreds of years and are an integral part of the United States.
When we draw parallels between the Immigrant Irish of the Potato Famine years and the new immigrants from south of the border, we see an amazing similarity in how they are perceived and in the war against them conducted by the nativists. Both groups are portrayed as sub-human by these hate groups. Both groups have had religion used against them, both face strict immigration restrictions on the numbers allowed in, both were considered lower in intelligence and ability than the dominant population, both demonized for the ills and troubles affecting the current population. Denied jobs, rights, education, accused of being unwilling or unable to learn the dominant language or culture, they are relegated to menial labor and poor working conditions.
But, and there is a big BUT here, they survived and most importantly, they succeeded. In law, in politics, in religion, in education and in government, they have given us some of our greatest leaders, humanitarians and scientists. And during all this, the nativist hatred and chatter has sometimes grown loud and strong and sometimes been silenced and relegated to where it belongs – in the outhouse.
The lessons in history surrounding this issue is this: the nativists have always, ultimately, lost. It was true for the past and will be true again for the future. If the only rhetoric one has, in promoting themselves as a potential leader, is a desire to trample rights so dearly treasured, deny access to those less fortunate, and demonizes an entire race or religion, then that person is not and never will be fit to be a leader.
The future is now. The things we do now, will decide how we are viewed by history. If we give in to those that would advocate violence, deny basic human necessities and think this is what the American people want, we have lost. I have more faith in America than this. I believe that the truth and what is right will ultimately prevail, it might be a rough road, but both the Irish and the Latino populations have both been down this road before, and what does not destroy us, only made us stronger. The nativists would do well to remember that fact.