Framingham Online News

Framingham's Immigrant Problem

Filed under: General Interest by Randy Harris at 6:51 pm on April 28, 2010

FRAMINGHAM, MA - Framingham has a problem. And, the town is not alone in this problem -- people all over the state and the country are complaining about the same thing -- those "damned immigrants".

It isn't a new problem -- it's been going on for many years. Just the names called and words used [to describe "the problem"] are different.

In our new politically correct world, it's considered very un-PC to express dislike for a race or class of people using words we might prefer if we knew they would not hear us.  Instead we say things like "based on immigration status" or "because they don't speak English", or "because they probably get welfare and foodstamps".

In case you don't know exactly who they are -- they are easy to spot.  They look different.  They speak a different language, (and we know they understand English and just do it when they don't want us to know they are talking about us).  They eat weird food.  Some of them wear clothes we don't approve of.  Hearing their music bothers some of us.  On their holidays, they all jump around in public practicing strange traditions.

This group have always had the same stereotypical flaws.  We describe them as trashy, stupid, criminal, dirty and lazy. When we talk about them we cast a wide net and denigrate them with stereotypes and generalities, hoping we can build consensus against them, and get them to leave -- somehow.

The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things, 1871 political cartoon.

Political cartoon titled "The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things" by Thomas Nast (1840-1902) published in Harper's Weekly on Sep. 2, 1871

According to history, probably not...

If it was the 1840's, we'd be talking about the Irish.  We let them come here.  We gave them jobs.  We even let them build a church, (St. George's in Saxonville).

We felt it was the American thing to do -- their country was experiencing a deadly famine.

Sure, they were starving and would work for little more than a decent meal and roof over their heads -- that they were a good source of cheap labor was just a bonus to real Americans.  By the 1850's,  signs saying "No Irish Need Apply" hung in storefronts and newspaper employment ads said the same.  Two million Irish had emigrated to the US, and we had as much cheap labor as we needed.

The problem today is the economy, and immigrants are always the first scapegoats. A few years ago people were all looking for "a Brazilian" -- to mow their lawn, paint their house, be their maid, or anything else they could hire them to do when it was something an American wouldn't or couldn't for $7-10/hr.

Yet, if it was the 1870's, we'd be talking about the great deals we could get on cheaply priced high quality rubber from Para, Brasil -- just the raw material needed to keep The Para Rubber Shoe Factory in South Framingham cranking out shoes.

Flag of BrazilIn 1889,  Framingham, flying Brazilian and Portuguese flags welcomed 100 delegates from The Pan American Congress who had come to see the Para factory -- an industrial wonder which employed 1000 workers in it's 15 acre facility located on the rail lines which carried rubber in, and shoes out.

Civil War era politicians used the same divide and conquer tactics as they do today.  Blame the immigrants, or offer to protect them -- the same way Rebel newspapers tried to incite the Irish to turn against their Yankee neighbors -- the southern papers would report northern injustices against Irish and even invoke religion trying to turn Irish Catholics against Protestants.

If it was 1885, we'd be talking about the Jews.  We let about 26 of them setup a business in Downtown Framingham -- and didn't even complain when they held Jewish religion services inside their factory.  They have never stopped coming since, and today make up a large percent of the population in general compared to national averages.

Any time a group grows in disproportionate numbers, (from the national average), it becomes a problem for members of some other group -- if they see it as encroachment more than cooperative living.  This kind of territorial protectionism goes back to cave man days.

But, birds of a feather flock together.  And, "Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows you name."

If it was the early 1900's in Downtown Framingham, we might be discussing all the Italians that emigrated here, setup shops and businesses and even set up "The Columbus Society", a social club where they could sit around, speak in their native language, eat traditional foods, play their own music and enjoy themselves without being ostracized for being "different", for "not speaking English", and all the other reasons we find to somehow consider ourselves better than some other group.

Immigrants have been drawn to Framingham since it's earliest days.  Framingham has been a refuge for poor, oppressed or otherwise disadvantaged people who saw the town as a place offering opportunity -- a place they could be free, and live the American dream.  For centuries Framingham has provided safe haven to people from all walks of life -- from accused witches in 1693, to those simply trying to make a better life for themselves and their children in 2010.

Ellis Island (c.1905)

Ellis Island, (c.1905) photo from U.S. Library of Congress, American Heritage collection.

From 1892 through 1954 over 12 million immigrants were processed in to America at Ellis Island.  It's believed that today over 100 million Americans, (a third of the population of the country), can trace their ancestry to someone who passed through the island's gates on their journey to the U.S.A.

Today many Brazilians own successful businesses in Downtown Framingham where we blame "them" for the urban decay.  Only a short 10-15 years ago we thought it would be a good idea to invite and welcome Brazilians to Downtown -- and hope they would help revive the neighborhoods, add to the economy and add new culture to an area that has been in decline since GM, Dennison and all the other post industrial revolution era manufacturing giants shuttered their factories.

America is made of up people who left other countries at some point in history for one reason or another.  Unless you are a Native American, chances are you are only a few generations away from an immigrant past.  Even if your family arrived on the Mayflower, you are the descendant of an immigrant.


  1. Today’s immigrants are here just to make a few bucks… then go back to where they’re from and live like kings. They suck every dime out of this country they can with food stamps, take cash paying jobs, pay nothing in taxes, and pile into homes which they destroy along the way. Immigrants that came through Ellis Island worked hard, took any jobs they could, gave back to this country and made it their home….they weren’t here to make some cash, annoy people with their pimped out, base booming 1990 Acura Integras, honk their horns when their team wins a soccer game, and take, take, take!

    Comment by Steve — May 4, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  2. A friend of my mother grew up in Westboro in the 1930s, and then it was a very Yankee farm town.
    On Saturdays they came to downtown Framingham to shop, and at the markets on Waverly this little girl would hear a din of Italian, Yiddish, and Portuguese. One day she tugged at her mother’s skirt and said, “Ma, is Framingham a foreign country ?”

    Comment by Chris Mullen — March 13, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Home Page
Privacy Policy
Site Map
Advertising Info
Contact Us
Framingham News
Framingham Weather
Framingham Calendar of Events
Framingham Sports
Framingham Organizations
Framingham Cable TV
Framingham Business Directory
Framingham Schools
Framingham History
Framingham Real Estate
Framingham Restaurants
Copyright ©1995-2018, all rights reserved.

Click here to return to home page...
---------- [ end of content ] ----------