Amnesty advocates ask how long a person has to live here before you can call them Americans, with the implication that a decade or two should be enough. I would ask in response how long your descendants have to be here before politicians and activists stop calling them immigrants. Was Geoffrey Chaucer an immigrant to England? Were the Iroquois immigrants into the St Lawrence River area but invaders of the Hudson River area?
Not everyone liked being thought of as an immigrant, remember? People consciously dropped the old ways in order to become melting-pot Americans. The melting pot image is now unfashionable. So what? A lot of people did melt in and become generic American. Just because the current fashion is to dig up what they buried doesn't make it eternal truth. The fashion could change in a generation.
The other grandfather traces back to the original Massachusetts colonisation as well. So we are up to 75% of my ancestors who can be called immigrants only if you allow a convenient interpretation of why they came, and regard 250-400 years of occupancy as unimportant to the definition. The latter would lead to difficulties on most of the inhabited areas of the earth.
My Swedish grandmother wasn’t an immigrant, but her parents were. They came here more than 130 years ago. I don’t think there actually is an American tradition of how far back we count ancestry in our designation of “immigrants.” Many of our parents and grandparents saw themselves as products of an immigrant culture and would have agreed readily to the statement “we are a nation of immigrants.” But they were born 100 years ago. In many cases there is no scrap of language, no object from the old country, no identifiable custom of the ancestors. My wife’s family could much more readily be called “immigrants,” from Holland, Ireland, and Yorkshire, with the original ancestors born in Europe before 1900 but often not much before. But they did not tend toward Dutch, Irish, or recently English friends. They didn’t think of themselves as immigrants. I don’t know why my wife, children, and grandchildren should now revert to that designation.
I don’t have anything against immigrants. Sons number three an four are immigrants, the latter a double immigrant, as he now lives and works in Norway. Perhaps that gives me more clarity exactly what is and is not an immigrant. I like clarity.
*The original landings were seldom opposed by the native peoples, and sometimes were in places where they were few, anyway. The subsequent expansions were more along the lines of how invaders act. Nor were the native peoples of one mind as to what should be done with the Europeans. There was an enormous range, from the setting up of temporary trading areas in the Canadian Maritimes to the fully-armed landings and military campaigns in Mexico. All of them brought disease and alcohol, however, against which the natives had little genetic defense.