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by Mary Soderstrom

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Open Borders: The View from the US When French Canadians Flooded South

Former US Foreign Service Officer Steven Kelly has an interesting comment on the results of open borders in The New York Times today.  He notes that thousands and thousands of French Canadian cross the border to work in the industry, particularly in New England, throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th.  The result, he says has been a net gain for the US.  He suggests that opening the US up to economic immigrants now would be a good thing.

Francophones  from Quebec weren't the only ones who crossed the border to their benefit and, ultimately,  to that of the welcoming country. 

My paternal grandfather Dave McGowan left Napanee for the West sometime around 1890 for reasons that remain obscure.  He fetched up in Washington State and convinced a number of Canadian and British ex-pats to go back to Canada to enlist in World War I well before the US entered  the fray.

My maternal grandfather took his family from Massachusetts to Sasketchewan about the same time so he could work on the railway in the dry prairie air (which seemed to cure the turbculosis he'd been diagnosed with.)  An anti-Monarchist, he famously got fired from the Canadian Pacific for not uncovering his head and bowing when the train bearing the Governor General of Canada, the King's representative, passed.

Two points of view from men who crossed the continent to end up in the same town in Washington at the end of their lives.  Would they agree about opening up immigration today?  Don't know, but from my vantage point I'm glad the border was so porous.

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