America’s DNA

Newly minted President Trump has gone too far in banning certain Muslims from the United States and ignoring the fact that most Americans take pride in their immigrant heritage.

Striking to many foreigners who visit the United States is how Americans identify themselves. When one American asks another American “What are you?,” the answer usually involves ethnic origins.

“I’m half Turkish and half French” would be a typical response even though the person’s ancestors may have come to the country in the early 19th century.

Schoolchildren are raised on the story of the first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims – who left England seeking religious freedom – celebrated their first holiday harvest in Plymouth with a local Indian tribe.

The immigrants were welcomed by the native Americans, who may have given the Pilgrims the tougher wild turkey to eat and kept the fish for themselves, but they had taught the newcomers how to survive in their harsh new land.

This is the textbook tale of immigration to America. It was formally recognized as a national holiday in 1863 and has been used as a reference point for generations of people entering the country and carving out their place in the national mosaic.

We listen to the family stories about how our grandfather escaped the Prussian Wars or our great grandmother left Hong Kong to sail to California.

The immigration experience is part of the American psyche.

It was no surprise that the Ellis Island website, which opened its records on passenger arrivals and other genealogical data to the public in the early 1990s, crashed on the very first day as Americans rushed to discover their history.

Today immigrants make up 50 percent of the workforce in New York City and contribute to every aspect of American life. Corporate America, the arts community, scientific fields, the medical profession, academic institutions, sports teams and labor unions are up in arms over Trump’s travel ban, which threatens to disrupt their operations.

Trump’s executive order denying entry to citizens of seven Muslim-majority states and locking out refugees for 120 days invalidates the most basic American values. We are a nation built by the exiled, the persecuted, the adventurer, the thrill seeker and the impoverished and we have a tradition of extending a hand up to those behind us.

The selective ban on one religious group and desperate refugees disregards the DNA of this country.

“So what are you, Mr, Trump?” First-generation Scottish and second-generation German from Queens. You should remember your own roots.

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