It’s OK to wear something green today. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. That is particularly true of our region, which boasts a rich Celtic heritage handed down by the early settlers.
Many of the Scots-Irish immigrants to America eventually found their way to frontier settlements along the Watauga, Nolichucky and Holston rivers, where the geography reminded them of the Celtic lands they left behind. David Crockett, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson were among those with Scots-Irish ancestry who have called this region home.
The Scots-Irish culture has left a definite imprint on the music and dance of the Appalachian Mountains. Even some of the dialects spoken in the Appalachians can be traced back to Gaelic and Elizabethan English.
Most of the Scots-Irish were very self-reliant and very resistant to British rule. It was these independent traits that brought many Scots-Irish settlers to Northeast Tennessee. The British Crown had forbidden American colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. That edict did not stop the stubborn Scots-Irish from defying King George and putting down deep roots in the land of the Cherokee.
It’s with that in mind that we take time on this St. Patrick’s Day to reflect on immigration reform. Following the 2012 presidential election, there appeared to be a window of opportunity to get somewhere on this issue. Sadly, it appears that window is quickly closing. The immigration debate is once again being hijacked by politics, which is curious since top leaders of both parties are now taking similar positions on the issue.
In recent years, it is people of faith who have outlined the debate on immigration reform for what it truly is — a moral issue. Compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform — one that provides a path to citizenship and reunites families — is the only answer.
Without it, the 11 million people who are estimated to be living in this country illegally will continue to be pushed to the edge of society, marginalized and perhaps even preyed upon by unscrupulous individuals seeking to take advantage of our country’s inability to reform its immigration laws.