NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 26, 2013

Once upon a time of open borders

I was taken by a New York Times column by Steven R. Kelly on Wednesday of this week dealing with the 1880-1890 surge of French Canadians into New England for two reasons.

He is a retired diplomat and current associate director of the Center of Canadian Studies at Duke University.

It was very well done and it got me to thinking.

My grandparents on both sides, the Plantes and the Cyrs, were among those who came in the early 1880s when there were no border barriers to immigration between Canada and the United States.

For those who may not be aware, the “Yankee City Series,” available in the Newburyport Public Library, detail how they and other immigrants of that period became part of the American scene.

In its time, it was important to many universities.

Mr. Kelly’s account and his conclusion are more relevant to this time in history.

It was no surprise for me to read that the 19th- and early 20th-century Canadians and their American-born young worked in shoe shops and mills way back when.

So had my mother and some of my aunts and uncles.

Many do equally mundane jobs for little pay, but there’s a difference.

French Canadians faced no registration requirements in most of the surge and were not illegal.

A great flood of Mexicans are.

America had been the coming to place for much of those from western and central Europe who faced a much feared challenge by U.S. customs of legal acceptance or rejection.

That was the difference in comfort levels between the French Canadians who came as they pleased, and those of other nationalities whose acceptance had to face the challenges of formal immigration.

Nevertheless, they were welcomed as employees, even as are the Hispanics by employers today.

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