Italy was a broken country when my grandmother fled from Tuscany
With two little kids in tow, she only knew one place to go
Came and made a home for you and me
When Italy was a broken country
Ireland was a broken country and my great-grandfather, a famine refugee
One little bag was all he could take when his family gathered and held a wake
To send their little boy across the sea
When Ireland was a broken country
Germany was a broken country, just some broken little principalities
One church didn’t like the other and my ancestors left their motherland
Found a place to worship free
When Germany was a broken country
My people come from broken countries
One question that often comes up in discussions of immigration is, should the United States allow immigration from countries suffering from serious problems such as civil or religious conflict, famine, etc? Wouldn't it be better if all our immigrants were educated, prosperous, and had a solid understanding and appreciation of our values? While it is not my role here to prescribe policy, as a teacher of history I thought it important to remind students that the United States has ALWAYS received most of its immigrants from countries that were having serious problems. There is a fairly obvious reason for this: most people do not leave their homes, families, and friends behind to start a new life unless things are not great at home. This is why the U.S. has a rather large statue facing toward the "old world" not just in welcome, but in challenge: give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. It may seem odd to specifically invite the world's exiles, homeless, and wretched refuse; and to be sure, all those riff-raff have caused a lot of social friction, but after a generation or two each wave of "huddled masses" has become something new and extraordinary: Americans.
Here are some academic standards from the History/Social Science Content Standards of the state of California addressed by this song:
CA.HSS 5.2.3. Trace the routes of the major land explorers of the United States, the distances traveled by explorers, and the Atlantic trade routes that linked Africa, the West Indies, the British colonies, and Europe.
5.4.2. Identify the major individuals and groups responsible for the founding of the various colonies and the reasons for their founding (e.g., John Smith, Virginia; Roger Williams, Rhode Island; William Penn, Pennsylvania; Lord Baltimore, Maryland; William Bradford, Plymouth; John Winthrop, Massachusetts).
5.8.1. Discuss the waves of immigrants from Europe between 1789 and 1850 and their modes of transportation into the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys and through the Cumberland Gap (e.g., overland wagons, canals, flatboats, steamboats).
Chronological & Spatial Thinking #3. Discuss the waves of immigrants from Europe between 1789 and 1850 and their modes of transportation into the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys and through the Cumberland Gap (e.g., overland wagons, canals, flatboats, steamboats).
8.6.3. List the reasons for the waves of immigration from Northern Europe to the United States and describe the growth in the number, size, and spatial arrangements of cities (e.g., Irish immigrants and the Great Irish Famine).
8.12.7. Identify the new sources of large-scale immigration and the contributions of immigrants to the building of cities and the economy; explain the ways in which new social and economic patterns encouraged assimilation of newcomers into the mainstream amidst growing cultural diversity; and discuss the new wave of nativism.
Chords: C, F, G