We’re all House Sparrows

A few months ago, a pair of English House Sparrows began guarding what they intended would eventually be the place they raised their offspring. Like most of us, they chased away interlopers, including the bluebirds we human yard owners hoped would make a home there.

House Sparrows get their name from hanging around houses; they get along very well with human house makers. One report of their origin in this country is that they were brought here by European immigrants who wanted to bring along a reminder of home.

Another story of their importation renders possibly more intention to their presence. According to the bird experts at Cornell University, they were brought to Brooklyn, New York, in 1851 to devour the larva of the Geometrid Moth. Forty years later, they had spread to the Rocky Mountains. Meanwhile, in the early 1870s, they were introduced in San Francisco and Salt Lake City, completing their blanketing of the nation.

A few years ago, my wife found an antique-looking birdhouse and hung it over our hot tub. The following spring, and every one since, a pair of House Sparrows has raised a family therein. The past two years, they have occupied a house mounted at the end of our fence row.

Our intention was to attract Eastern Bluebirds, and indeed a couple pair did stop by to look the place over. They were enthusiastically fended off by the aforementioned pair of early arriving House Sparrows. The male of the pair also took on a starling – and won. (Starlings, by the way, also were introduced to these shores by our European ancestors.)

The song of the chubby little creatures is easy to listen to, and their bright multi-shaded black and brown plumage is attractive in the back yard. And they are just trying to do what all us critters want to do – our daily work and raise a kid or two.

I thought of them while attending a rally at the state capital Wednesday. A group of about 50, mostly Latino, immigrants gathered in support of House Bill 1648. The proposal, primarily offered by Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, would provide driver licenses to undocumented immigrants. Eleven states and the District of Columbia already have similar laws.

Unlike the House Sparrows, most of the so-called undocumented immigrants of Mexican and Central American descent were here before the Europeans showed up. They’re not all of such extraction; many come from other nations, often on legal visas, and simply “forget to go home.”

They work hard in small businesses and on farms, and birth children who then are U.S. citizens. Their language is found in the names of towns and roads across our nation. Their music is easy to enjoy, and many of us could learn a thing or two about how to relate to our own communities.

While some among us loudly espouse expelling them from “our” country, we do not, as a matter of actual policy, work at that very hard.

“There are many businesses that benefit from their being here,” Rep. Cohen said Wednesday, “and they (the businesses) lobby heavily to prevent enforcement of immigration laws.”

There are many documents and identifications HB1648 would allow driver license applicants to use as proof they are who they claim to be. Among them would be a tax identification number. It turns out, objections to their presence seemingly to the contrary, their tax money is as good as anyone’s.

Most of us are well aware of the importance of a driver license to our daily efforts. We use it to get to work, or the grocery store, or the movies, or to take our kids to school.

But to some of us, lack of a driver license, added to a certain skin tone and verbal accent, can mean the beginning of deportation proceedings. Instead of collecting taxes, we pay for foster care for children left behind when one or both their parents are sent “home.”

In the end, we’re all House Sparrows, immigrated to our current locale, contributing as best we can to the needs of our community, raising future generations to continue the efforts of their ancestors and advancement of the species.

Some of us have wings. Some of us need a driver’s license.

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