Immigrants Like Those Who Came Before Them

America is a country that endlessly reinvents itself, working the alchemy that turns "them" into "us." That is the American secret: motion, new combinations, absorption. The process is wasteful, dangerous, messy, sometimes tragic. It is also inspiring. The story, in its ideal, is one of earthly redemption.

The idea is reckless, taking in so many strangers, hurling all those contradictory genes and customs and temperaments into the same room. It goes against human nature. Strangers are not supposed to set up civilizations together. A nation must arise out of a tribe, out of affinities of blood. At one time, if some...

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