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'Immigrant' Ships Are Not Slave Ships

May 29, 2002

Re "10 Chinese Nabbed After Coming Ashore in O.C.," May 24:

To refer to the ships used by Asian smugglers and stowaways as "modern-day slave ships," to quote Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Bill Strassberger, is not only inaccurate, it is insulting. There is a vast difference between individuals willingly undertaking a perilous journey by sea "looking for a better economic future" and the Africans who were captured in their homeland, packed into steerage and delivered into bondage in the Americas.

Lest we forget, there was also little possibility for these captives to slip into the contemporary garb of the day and fade into a heterogeneous landscape (eagle-eyed Orange County teens notwithstanding).

From the first wave of Scots-Irish through the influx of Southeast Asian and Central American immigrants, North America has been a beacon of economic freedom. Remember that the bulk of African Americans came comparatively late to the much-vaunted American dream; for more than 200 years they were extremely busy crafting it for others through back-breaking labor.

Samantha A. Martin

Los Feliz

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