We’re Not Burdens on Society. We’re Engines of Economic Progress.

History is being made on the Rio Grande. Hundreds of thousands of migrants braved the journey across it last year, setting records and contributing to an urgent border crisis. As spectacle, it has been transfixing.

Yet misconceptions abound. It’s as if the sight of a migrant scaling a wall or wading ashore is now a Rorschach test, our Rashomon. Depending on where we sit on the political spectrum, we perceive different truths: Some see a brown “invasion,” others an unremitting drug war, a humanitarian crisis, a political failure, a symptom of societal collapse. The politicizations are legion, and the distortions dire.

More than anything, these images cloud two key realities: Not all migrants crossing the southern border are Latin Americans; Chinese newcomers are now the fastest growing group coming in from Mexico. And most Latinos are not rootless, illegal transients — burdens on the society — as some citizens may think, but a force for American progress.

The majority of Latinos in this country were born here and are English speakers. Some of us have families who inhabited this continent long before the Pilgrims set foot on its shores. Hispanics have fought loyally in every American war since the Revolution. The Army’s eighth chief of ordnance, Brig. Gen. Stephen Vincent Benét, was Hispanic. The first admiral of the Navy, David Farragut (“Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!”), whose commanding statue dominates Farragut Square only steps from the White House, was Hispanic. Roughly one out of every four U.S. Marines today is a Latino. Invasion, indeed.

We are Americans. We have served America since its foundation; we have contributed richly to its culture, its science. Little to none of that history is taught in American public schools; and in the media and entertainment industries, the image of the Latino has historically been roundly negative, if present at all. This, too, needs to change. A vigorous antidote to border fever is in order.

Take the economy. Research has shown that immigrant workers pay taxes and have a net zero effect on government budgets. Whether behind a pupusa stand or a polished desk in a major corporation, Latino workers occupy every rung of the economy and own a considerable stake in the financial success of this country.

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