Until 1868, all in the United States were immigrants

  • Contributed photo

    Jim Jung

• Editor’s note: Following are excerpts from Jim Jung’s July 4, 2019 keynote speech for the American Legion.

Who are Americans?

I believe that we became Americans in July 1868 when the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment tells us who citizens are: “All persons born or naturalized in the U.S. and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the U.S. and the state wherein they reside.”

Before that all were immigrants to a new land seeking a better life than we had under the rule of tyrant kings. Twelve years earlier, on July 4, 1776, organizers of our new nation wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence teaches us and proclaims: “We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

In addition to No Taxation Without Representation, another reason stated in the Declaration of Independence for forming our government was the issue of immigration. English kings prevented the population of our colonies by enacting laws prohibiting naturalization of foreigners and refusing to pass laws to encourage their migration. That’s how strongly our founders felt about welcoming immigrants and treating them equally!

Despite those honorable principles, we hated, at various times, Africans, Irish, Italians, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Muslims, Mexicans and now Guatemalans.

Slavery. Help Wanted Signs – Irish Need Not Apply. Italian concentration camps. German names were unpopular – Liberty House used to have a German name. Chinese Exclusion Act. Japanese interment camps. All Muslims falsely called terrorists and prohibited from entry. All Mexicans falsely called rapists and drug dealers. Guatemalan children snatched from their parents and locked up in cages. Children and babies pitifully crying for their parents who were transported far away from them.

All were immigrants seeking better lives for themselves and their families. Immigrants fleeing from economic hardship and human rights violations. Many seeking asylum from violence.

Why can’t we recognize that they are created equal and treat them with respect?

The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor tells us to “give me your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores; send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

What are we doing now? Building walls instead of bridges. We’re separating young children from their parents. That’s not Americanism, that’s immoral. We’re dividing our people! Whatever happened to our motto: “E Pluribus Unum – Out of many, there is one”?

Winston Churchill once said: “If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail!” We should stop making America Hate Again. We should stop bigotry and xenophobia! We should stop hostile tirades and bullying.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not helped in the past. In the Dred Scott case it declared that Negro slaves could never become citizens because they were “property.” Dred Scott was born in the U.S. to parents who were slaves.

In another case, a Chinese baby was born in the U.S. to parents who emigrated from China. The Supreme Court ruled that he could not become a citizen because his parents “owed allegiance to the Emperor of China” and thus was not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fortunately that changed in the Wong Kim Ark case holding that children born in the U.S. to immigrants are citizens.

The February 2019 American Legion magazine had an article on Americanism. It says the core of American Legion founders were front-line officers in WWI. A large percentage of WWI troops were conscripted immigrants. Most were uneducated in U.S. government, laws and history.

A top priority of the American Legion was to provide education and citizenship to these immigrants. Racism was specifically denounced.

The American Legion established the U.S. Flag Code and became an ambassador of flag respect, education and protection. This was part of the process of bringing citizenship to these immigrants who fought for a country they didn’t know but wanted to become a part of.

The American Legion served not just veterans and immigrants, but whole communities. The organization taught that veterans should be catalysts to strengthen communities. At one of the national meetings, a speaker declared: “We must continue to serve the country in the same spirit we had in war, and we can do that only if we have every post doing something for its community.”

During the Great Depression, the American Legion fed the poor and unemployed, including immigrants, in their communities. It established youth programs with baseball and Boy Scouts. It promoted education of the Constitution and flag etiquette. It established oratorical contests focusing on the Constitution.

The article concludes with the Legion’s definition of “Americanism.” The magazine article defines “Americanism” as “the living record of what Legionnaires do to improve their communities in thousands of projects.

“True Americanism is an ideology that is continually nurtured within one’s soul through individual daily actions.”

I close with my personal definition of “Americanism.” “Americanism” is “PATRIOTISM: Respect for of our country. Devotion to our country. Love of our country.”

We demonstrate our patriotism by our deeds.

JFK said it best: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for our country.”


Jim Jung is a member of the American Legion and a resident of Kapaa.

  1. Sharon king July 4, 2019 2:56 am Reply

    Vetted immigrants, not illegal immigrants, are free of infectious disease, learn our history and language, love our country, and become great American citizens!

  2. Steven McMacken July 4, 2019 3:59 am Reply

    Admirable words, Mr. Jung. It was a reminder of how far we have come in 243 years. Sadly, our prejudices against those who are “different,” whether it be skin color or sexual orientation, continue to haunt us. I hope I will live long enough to see the day when that is no longer an issue.

    A couple of factual errors: the Declaration of Independence was declared on July 2, 1776, approved by Congress on July 4, and signed on August 2, ninety-two years (not twelve) before the 14th Amendment took effect; and Kennedy’s complete inaugural quote was “And so, my fellow Americans; ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for YOUR [my caps] country.”

  3. Sue July 4, 2019 9:24 am Reply

    Be careful with “Patriotism”. Hitler loved that word, too!

  4. Susan Campbell July 4, 2019 9:49 am Reply

    Jim, I’m afraid I have to disagree with your well thought-out article. There is a big difference between being an “American” and a citizen of the United States. In 1507 the inhabitants of South America became “Americans” after their continent was discovered by an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. It was he who demonstrated to Europeans that this was a new continent, which then became known as America, named after him. The term was ultimately used to identify Central and North America as well.

    But there is a group you don’t address in your article, the Native people of North America. I happen to carry dual citizenship; I am a citizen of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a sovereign nation within the U.S., and of the United States. When my Native ancestors were removed from their homelands in the Great Lakes area, it was under the American flag that they were marched at gunpoint west of the Mississippi. They were treated as trash that had to be taken out so “Americans” could move into their lands, their homes and harvest their crops. Then their children were taken away and sent to be raised in boarding schools so they would become good “Americans;” my Grandmother was taken and raised in Chilocco Indian School. As a result we lost our language, which we were forbidden to speak, our spirituality, which we were forbidden to practice, and our identification as Native people, which is imbedded in our language and spiritual practices. It was only in the 1970s that our pride and identity were restored; we still struggle with the language but our spirituality is alive and well thanks to our spiritual leaders who took it underground.

    So I see a big difference between “Americans” and citizens. I am a citizen of two nations but I do not consider myself an “American.” For me the Americans became the enemy in 1838.

    When I hear the words “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free” I cringe. I don’t have that pride and never will and I’m not alone. Native people are still under attack to some degree. We’re characterized as “the drunken Indian”, the ones who prefer to live in poverty on reservations such as Pine Ridge, who will never make anything of themselves (what about authors, congressmen, educators who happen to be Natives?). We still carry this stigma.

    So thank you for writing your article. But please be aware that it doesn’t apply to everyone. It doesn’t apply to me.

  5. Robert "Tito" Edwards July 4, 2019 10:25 am Reply

    So you pointed out exceptional cases of how bad America is then you transitioned to the good work that the American Legion does.

    You seem confused.

  6. manawai July 4, 2019 11:58 am Reply

    “All Muslims falsely called terrorists and prohibited from entry. All Mexicans falsely called rapists and drug dealers.”

    If you are attributing these claims to Trump, then you are a liar. He only wanted a moratorium on Muslim entry until we could properly figure out how to vent the refugees we have always tried to do with ALL immigrants including Mexicans (some of whom could be drug dealers and criminals) until the Dems changed their minds and want open borders with zero vetting of all immigrants solely for political purposes. You and Hooser are a two peas in a pod.

  7. harryoyama July 4, 2019 2:52 pm Reply

    Just the same as all immigrants to Hawaii except the native Hawaiians were and are still illegals who over stayed their 3 year work CONTRACTS after the fact that the Hawaiian nation was illegally overthrown by racist white plantation owners and their equally white racist cronies.

    Don’t promote this “American freedom” of oppression, when in fact its the formation of the Constituation that prostitutes all native peoples to “justify” their wandon destruction and continued oppression and often politically motivated agendas using the plight of illegals who have no rights to claim because of their status.

  8. Arbitrary July 4, 2019 11:45 pm Reply

    In 1868 rent was a 25 cents

  9. Knowitall July 5, 2019 5:10 pm Reply

    Every day on the news I have to listen to a bartender tell me how to run the country. . . Now on TGI I gotta listen to a Lifeguard tell me about immigration. . .
    Tomorrow the trash man going tell me how I should invest my portfolio?!

    1. james July 7, 2019 7:26 am Reply

      You have a point. What does a bartender, or maybe a reality TV star, know about running our country? Nothing, as it turns out. Especially a reality TV personality who has bankrupted just about every company he has had anything to do with.

  10. hutch July 5, 2019 11:43 pm Reply

    Here’s Harry Oyama: “Blah blah blah *racism* blah blah blah *evil haoles* blah blah blah *colonialism* blah blah blah *white devils* blah blah blah. One pathetic local.

  11. Pete Antonson July 6, 2019 2:52 pm Reply

    First, you seem to think “Lifeguard” is a diminishing title. You’re dead wrong. Further, Jim Jung graduated from college; which you never did. Jim Jung left graduate school with a law degree; which you never did. Jim Jung gave back to this community by becoming it’s Public Defender; which you never did. Jim Jung has made Kauai a better place for decades by not only being with several associations; but, leading them! Which you never will. Jim Jung has been designated a “Living Treasure” on Kauai for Community Service; which you……oh forget about it! If I were you, I’d listen to the “trash man” you also disparage because he’s at a level to carry Jim Jung’s trash and you are not!

  12. gordon oswald July 7, 2019 7:57 am Reply

    Perhaps the most stupid “Opinion” piece ever written for the Garden Island! Yes, immigrants created what we now call the United States. Yes, immigrants flowed here for the purpose of joining the Founders of our Country in their Dream of freedom and self governance. Yes, all immigrants joined America after being vetted for disease, character, and all the rest. Now you compare these immigrants who came here to assimilate, learn the language, work hard to build the country, and pursue the American Dream with the hoards of free loaders coming here by sneaking in, getting on welfare, sticking with their own kind and not learning English, many bringing diseases, and all sucking free health care, and many violating our laws even demanding we change them to their chosen system of public control called Shariah Law created by a Government who also calls themselves a Religion. You are a pathetic example of all things naïve and misinformed.

  13. R. Yamagata July 8, 2019 1:43 pm Reply

    My only criticism of Mr. Jung’ s commentary is his reference to building bridges rather than walls. Hikers and campers use what is called a “life straw”. It’s used like a straw except it has a filter included to filter out bacteria and other harmful elements. A wall on our southern border would have the same result. It would weed out human trafficking, terrorists, ms-13 gang members, drugs and especially things that we cannot see, diseases that has the potential of turning into a full blown epidemic. Ellis Island vetted thousands of immigrants back when immigration was open to all people from all over the world.Compassion is a very valuable human asset (and maybe we need more of it), but what is seriously lacking is wisdom. Both are equally necessary and important like a bird needing two wings to fly. “Wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness, and compassion without wisdom is foolishness”. Yes, the wall should not be built without bridges, but the wall is necessary to be the “life straw” of our nation to insure the health and safety for all of us.

  14. Pete Antonson July 8, 2019 3:07 pm Reply

    Everytime some aging, white guy yells “freeloader” we tell them “No welfare, food stamps, ACA (not free) for LEGAL immigrants before 5 years residency! No social security benefits for LEGAL immigrants until 40 work quarters. None of these things available for undocumented immigrants. But, these morons keep yelling “freeloaders” because FOX and Rush tell them to every day, and because they are stupid bigots! Aging, white guys decided 23 years ago to punish LEGAL immigrants with 5 years of no safety net because aging, white bigots were not in short supply then, just like they’re not in short supply today! These are the grumpy guys, disappointed that they didn’t accomplish anything meaningful in their wasted lives.
    And yes, drivers licences and public school services are available to all in the few States that require everyone to have a licence and every child to be in school. They want to be able to enforce those laws. You go ahead and spin that like FOX taught you. You really think anyone on Kauai is listening to you anyway?

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