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Letter: Setting the record straight on immigration

Thank you for printing Dr. James D. Veltmeyer’s commentary about immigration. Its publication is a good sign: that civil discourse includes many opinions. His opinions are popular, no doubt. Unfortunately, they are based on misconceptions.

For instance, he ignores those who lived here before Columbus — somewhere between 2 and 7 million Native Americans.

When speaking about colonial America (the future U.S.A.), history books tend to use the Puritans as an icon but the colonies were populated by folks from all over.

The Dutch famously bought what we now call New York City. The Swedes colonized Delaware Bay. Germans settled in Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) was a German settlement long before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first “American” city (St. Augustine) was built by the Spanish in Florida. The French had a sophisticated system of settlements and forts. When the first census was taken (1790), one fifth of the American population included slaves, most of whom had dark skin.

English is our national language?

In 1795, the House of Representatives debated a request to publish laws in German. The matter was dropped by a vote of 42 to 41. In other words, German was almost a much more important ingredient than we remember. We still don’t have a national language.

Our customs likewise are a mish-mash from all over. Veltmeyer argues that “There is no need to assimilate them.” We already have, as evidenced by our holidays and customs. Santa Claus was introduced by the Dutch settlers four years before the Declaration of Independence. Christmas was only made a national holiday in 1893. Halloween as we know it was introduced by Irish immigrants in the 19th century. A Quinceañera did not come from England, nor did the piñata. The list is long.

Here in Madera, we, too, have experienced waves of immigration from Japan, China, all over Europe (see the U.S. Census for 1910) and Mexico. This was Mexico! We stole it. Today, more than three-quarters of our population is Hispanic. Our concern should be how to solve common problems, not finger-pointing.

This is an odd piece. Veltmeyer is an immigrant from somewhere in South America. He seems to be saying, “Well, I made it. Quick! Close the door!” He has won awards as a medical doctor. He has also unsuccessfully run for office in southern California. Twice. Apparently his own neighbors do not buy into his history lessons.

— Lawrence F. Lihosit,

Author of “Neighbors: Oral History from Madera, California,”


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