In Gangs of New York, navitist Bill “the Butcher” Cutting turns to Boss Tweed and scoffs at the newcomers. “I don’t see no Americans. I see trespassers, Irish harps.”
One hundred fifty years later, the debate lives on.
The New York Times has a great map illustrating immigration patterns between 1880 and 2000 (unfortunately it doesn’t include data from the 2008 American Community Survey). You really need to visit the interactive site to fully appreciate it. The map allows you to select from 23 different places (ranging from Vietnam to Canada to Czechoslovakia), and then adjust bubble size and date range.
As you can see, German immigrants reinvented the landscape of Northern states a century ago (and the Texas hill country – where would Texas BBQ be without their influence?), the way Mexicans are in the southwest and Chicago today.
Of course, open borders lead to growth. But in the 2010 recession, it also roils angst among angry, working class whites, which is not something Obama needs more of.