By Arcides De Jesus
Special to The CS&T
Independence Day commemorates the birthday of the United States of America. It is celebrated on July 4 each year in states and territories (such as Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) of the United States.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress declared the American colonies free and independent states. But it took the delegates two days to agree on a formal document announcing their action. Finally, on July 4, 1776, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. It was written by Thomas Jefferson in consultation with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and William Livingston.
The founders of the new nation considered Independence Day an important occasion for rejoicing. Today, Independence Day is a major midsummer festival in the United States. Independence Day was first observed in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. In 1941, Congress declared July 4 as a federal legal holiday.
With the growth and spanersification of American society, the Fourth of July commemoration became a patriotic tradition that many groups – not just political parties – sought to claim. Those groups include the 12.5 million or more immigrants, mainly from Mexico and Latin America, that came to the United States, looking for better life opportunities.
In the same way that thousands of immigrants from Europe did, these Hispanic immigrants left their own countries due to persecution and political instability, poverty, lack of work and violation of their human rights.
In the Declaration of Independence, the second paragraph states: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
These words, written three centuries ago by the founders of this noble nation, apply today and forever to the sustenance and the evolution of our great American society.
“All men” includes all men. Are Hispanic immigrants to be considered outside the philosophy and values that gives this country its uniqueness among the world’s countries?
Our strong democratic system has the unalienable duty to protect the sacred foundation of our country. No man living and working on this beloved land should be left out of the protection of their rights as established by these illuminating words.
We cannot ignore that the immigrants represent a significant contribution to the United States’ economy: labor force participation, taxes paid and earnings spent for goods and services. I’m pretty sure that we need, now more than ever, the commitment and loyalty of these hard workers that love this land and its principles of democracy. Many have put their lives as a testimony of their love and loyalty to this land.
We need a comprehensive immigration reform that could sustain the unalienable rights of life, liberty and happiness for all. Let us support all the good efforts of our congressmen on behalf of this goal.
Arcides De Jesus serves on the social justice committee of the Office of Hispanic Catholics of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.