There’s a meme on the book of faces with a stereotypical American autochthon staring out of the picture and the text “I hate to tell you this, but you’re all illegal aliens.”
I hate to tell you this, but no. We’re not.
First off, what immigration law did they have? What were the borders? What were the ports of entry? What was the process for legally immigrating? Or were they just totally isolationist with no one allowed to immigrate? But, again, in that case what were the actual borders? And if they didn’t completely shut out everyone from a certain territory and enforce that, what was the law on who was, or was not, allowed entry?
But that’s just by way of intellectual exercise. The blunt truth is that we conquered it, or bought from people who conquered it (or at least claimed to–the land occupied by the Shoshone may have been claimed by Spain, who sold it to the French, who in turn sold it to the US as part of the Louisiana Territory, but the Shoshone remained of a different opinion and we ended up having to conquer it ourselves later).
In this, we were just like everybody else in the world. This includes the American autochthons. The various tribes and nations didn’t just drop into the lands they inhabited at the time they came into conflict with Europeans–their ancestors having crossed Bering Land Bridge and each group settling into uninhabited territory where it would remain until Europeans came. Nope. They engaged in conquest of each other’s lands, some successfully. Some not. But it remained conquest. The Cree and Anishnaabe people pushing the Lakota out of Minnesota and into the Great Plains was no less a conquest simply because the conquerors and conquered were racially similar.
Everybody lives on land that was taken by force of arms from others who were on their previously…and were able to hold against others who tried to take it from them. Everybody.
Mr. Autochthon up there is just complaining that we were better at it than his people were. Oh, and we’re also the ones that decided that maybe, just maybe, the practice should be reined in a little. (Hey, we conquered most of Mexico–all the way down to Mexico city–and gave a big chunk back because, well, because we didn’t want it.)
So, yeah, I fully admit that Europeans came as colonizers and conquerors with the intent of making over this continent in their own image culturally speaking (and in the process creating something they never intended, something never before seen in the world, something greater than their grandest imaginings). And had the natives had the foresight and ability to stop that they would have been in their right to do so. (Whether it would have been the right move is another story–the horse, the dog, and the wheel as just three examples of why it might not have been.)
Now, do you really want to convince me that illegal aliens are comparable to the Europeans who came to “The New World” back in the fifteenth century and since? Because that involves convincing me that they are a bona fide existential threat to our nation and our way of life. They are, if your comparison holds, an invading army bent on conquest.
And thus should be treated as such.