ethel’s words

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IMMIGRANTS AND THE MONROE DOCTRINE:
SOUTH AMERICANS IN THE USA

Immigrants from republics south of Mexico are not as close to Yankee America as Mexicans, but they should be given greater consideration than persons from the Eastern Hemisphere--if we must continue to divide human beings into categories and nationalistic countries. The Monroe Doctrine laid some foundation for an attitude of “special friendship”.

The Doctrine declares (though in arcane and often obscure language) that the United States will act as protector of the numerous republics south of Yankee America, and indeed, seems to view the entire Western Hemisphere (excepting Canada!) as being its domain for the purpose of preventing incursions by European powers.

It implies a natural community of interest, a unity to be a bulwark against the rest of the political world. At one point, the Doctrine speaks of “our southern brethren”. This must be evaluated with consideration of our racist attitudes, but in the changed world 183 years later, “our southern brethren” are not just the European colonizers, but also the indigenous peoples and the new mixed-culture populations.

Can we now alter this attitude to ignore those implications that the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere should be treated, not as “foreigners” but as special-status traders and political kin?

There are some disturbing dilemmas in our interventions and other relationships with South American republics, but to speak of immigrants asking for citizenship status in the United States of America, we are considering individual human beings, I hope, and not political representatives. I am not sure we need to ask why they want to be here, but the circumstances of their lives that cannot be changed should be given compassionate evaluation.

Ethel C. Hale