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On immigration

Immigrants arrive on Ellis Island in 1908. (Photo by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

Lately there has been talk about illegal immigration. Many of today's citizens don't realize that their ancestors may have arrived in the U.S. before Ellis Island and other border ports had been established and many did not apply for citizenship.

In fact, according to the American Immigration Council, "Many people assume that their family immigrated to the U.S. legally, or did it 'the right way.' In most cases, this statement does not reflect the fact that the U.S. immigration system was very different when their families arrived, and that their families might not have been allowed to enter had today's laws been in effect."

Ellis Island officially opened as an immigration station on January 1, 1892. Until the late 19th century, there were hardly any immigration laws to break.

The only people who can really say their relatives were really American are the Native Americans. The rest of us are descended from immigrants.

Another thing I found interesting was that some of those who came over here were sent over from English prisons. Nine percent of immigrants to the 13 colonies during the years 1700-1775 were convicts and prisoners. That's according to Anthony Vaver of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

I'm not saying we should let everyone in. I'm just saying it's possible that some of your relatives were never granted legal citizenship.

So next time you think "others" should not be living in the U.S. because because they're not legal, just remember that perhaps a lot of your relatives weren't, either.

Cecilia Hill, Duluth

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