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Immigration: What's That About?

a girl Alone!

Hardly anybody likes to be alone.  Sure, we all need some time to ourselves, but really ALONE?  No friends, no family, just…you?  Scary thought.  That’s why we live in cities, and in neighborhoods inside our cities, and it’s why going places with friends and family seems more fun than going alone. 

When you hear a funny joke or hear a really good song,

you want to tell someone – right?  Your brother, or your mom, or a friend, maybe?  Someone who will think the joke was funny and the song was great, too. 

But what if you were very far away from your brother, your mom, or your friends?  

What if you moved thousands of miles away from them?  And to make things even harder, what if no one in your new home understood the joke or liked the song?

Maybe they wouldn’t want to talk to you at all.  Maybe they wouldn’t even understand you, because you speak a different language!

So—what would you do?

It might be easiest to just stick with the people who came from the same place as you.  They’ll understand the joke or listen to the song with you.

If it’s so hard to move to a new place, why do people do it? 

beekeeperBeekeepers in Belgium - beeA Fable

Let’s say that one day, someone hears that there are great jobs for beekeepers in Belgium.  The jobs pay good money and there’s lots of room for families. bee

In Utah (the Beehive State), there are just too many beekeepers for everyone to have a good beekeeping job.  So a bunch of people from Utah decide to go to Belgium and get jobs there.  bee

What? No Fry Sauce?

The Utahns show up in Belgium and find out that nobody there speaks English. Belgians jellospeak Flemish or French.  They think that green Jello is disgusting, they only want to eat their fries with mayonnaise and not fry sauce, they’ve never even heard of Capitol Reef National Park, and they’re nervous that all these beekeepers from Utah have come to steal their jobs. 

Besides, there are no mountains in Belgium, hardly anybody goes skiing, and instead of four seasons, there’s just one: rainy!

So--If you had gone to Belgium, what would you do? 

There could be lots of ways to deal with the differences. The easiest thing might be to stick around the people you came with.  They know what you’re talking about when you talk about things like the Utes and the Cougars, and they’re the only ones who know how to make fry sauce, anyway. 

group of peopleUtahtown

You all live near each other, and pretty soon that area gets to be known as “Utahtown.”  You all work in the same industry — beekeeping — and most of you work for the same companies. 

beehive drawingEventually, some people do well enough to buy their own beehives, and they hire people from Utah and the children of the people from Utah to work for them.  bee

You write back to your families, and more people come.  Everyone goes to Utahtown churches, grocery stores, dances, and you vote for Utahtown candidates in local elections. 


How do you think the Belgian people might feel about Utahtown and all the Utahns? How would the Belgian beekeepers who lost their jobs to Utahns feel?

Coloradoans! Who said they could come?people

And then a group of people from Colorado hear that things are going well for the Utahns in Belgium.  So a group of Coloradoans decide to come to Belgium and work, too. And they are willing to work for less money, so they take jobs from Utahns!

How might the Utahns feel about the Coloradoans?

Can you see how conflicts could happen?

Immigration brings challenges!

group of people around a casket

A group of Greek immigrants at a funeral in Salt Lake City, 1915.

This story is just that, a story, but it represents the challenges that a lot of the groups who came to Utah faced. 

Decades ago, Utah had a lot of mining jobs and a lot of railroad jobs, and those were the industries that generally used a lot of immigrant labor. But they didn’t usually pay their workers a lot of money. 

It was scary when another group came in,

because they were sometimes willing to work for even lower pay. 

And things that are different can be scary.  Sometimes the new groups who came in didn’t speak English, or did things very differently from the groups that were already here. 

And it’s still happening.

Even though Utah doesn’t have a “Japantown” or a Greek district anymore, we still have new people who arrive here as refugees, students, or workers. These new people may dress differently, talk differently, or celebrate certain holidays and not others.

It can be hard,

but all it takes is a few people to break down the “walls” between groups.  Those people have to be brave, friendly, and adventurous to make new friends. But throughout history, new groups have brought new foods, arts, ideas, and vitality into Utah. If everyone works together, Utah can get better and stronger because of these new groups that call Utah home.

What are some ways different groups can break down “walls?”

When was a time that you made friends with someone from another group? How did you do it?

Read about a Ute Indian boy who befriended a sick Anglo American boy.