My mother came to America from El Salvador. My paternal grandparents came from Europe. All emigrated legally, which is the essence of the American experience – huddled masses yearning to be free, and all that.
However, in the eyes of many Americans, my mother and grandparents were selfish and immoral. After all, whenever a debate starts up about immigration, it’s just a matter of time before someone says, “They need to stay and fix their own countries instead of coming here.”
The implication is that people have an ethical obligation to remain in their homelands rather than try to improve their own lives. Of course, none of the Americans saying this have ancestors who took that advice. As soon as Ireland ran a little low on potatoes, for example, lots of people said, “See ya,” rather than stick around for the sake of rescuing Belfast.