“The Huddled Masses And The Myth Of America”
““Our founding documents were all published in German to accommodate the German-speaking populations. For most of the 19th century, instruction in public schools across the country — from Pennsylvania to Texas to Wisconsin — occurred entirely in languages other than English, or bilingually. And this practice was not abolished until the first decades of the 20th century.”
Nor did immigrants of that era classify themselves as legal or illegal.
“They just didn’t think in those terms,” she says. “During much of our history people moved across our borders with ease. If your ship docked outside of New York City, chances were you weren’t even interviewed. So when someone says to me, ‘My ancestors immigrated legally, why can’t [immigrants today]?’, my first question is, ‘When did your ancestors immigrate?’ Because if they immigrated in the 19th century or in the early 20th century, they simply didn’t use that vocabulary. They didn’t think in those terms.”