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Jonesborough marker honors immigrant trail

Are you aware that there will soon be a marker in Jonesborough honoring immigrants?

The marker will be placed on the facade of a stone boulder located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Main Street.  The marker was originally placed at this same location.  It was recently restored by Gavin Chaffing who was recognized this year for his excellent work in historic preservation by the State of Franklin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).  A rededication ceremony will be held this year.

The Immigrant Trail Marker is important in reminding us of the role immigration has played in the history of the United States.  This early migration route now travels through the Tennessee towns of Jonesborough, Greeneville and Morristown following the path of U.S. Route 11 E for a distance of about 125 miles. It is often referred to as the Knoxville Road, a segment of the western fork of the Great Valley Road that began near Roanoke, Virginia and extended to Bristol.  At Knoxville, the road connected with Avery’s Trace to Nashville.

Placement of the restored marker is timely during a period when the subject of immigration has become a political issue.  Jonesborough’s Immigrant Trail Marker was originally dedicated in or shortly after 1933.  Collections for the marker started in 1930.  Repair and replacement of the marker in Tennessee’s oldest town began as a DAR project in September 2014.  The repair of the metal plate began as a Science Hill High School class project in September 2017.

The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on social mobility, crime and voting behavior.

Immigration today in Washington County, Tennessee is more than historical recollection.  As of July 1, 2017 the United State Census Bureau says there are 127,806 people in the county of whom 3.5 per cent were foreign born.  This percentage equals 4,473 people. There are likely more than that figure not counted in the census for one reason or another, including those individuals who are undocumented.

If you are interested in your own family history, genealogical research facilities and societies are in existence in the county that provide answers to the question “where did I come from?”  The Jonesborough Genealogical Society and the Watauga Association of Genealogists, Northeast Tennessee offer assistance to members and persons seeking to trace their roots.  The Washington County / Jonesborough Library and Johnson City Public Library have genealogy sections containing helpful volumes of family history and research aids.  The  Washington County Archives now located in its own   building offers records dating to a time before Tennessee was a state.

In addition there are web sites and companies offering DNA testing results. Many people are excited when they discover the available accumulation of family histories and their DNA map revealing evidence of their own family’s  immigrant past. 

In absolute numbers, the United State has a larger immigrant population than any other country in the world.

Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of the United States.

There were 47 million immigrants in the United States in 2015 according to the United Nations Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  This represents 19.1 per cent of the 244 million international migrant population worldwide and 14.4 per cent of the U.S. population.  The nation does not lead the world in per percentage of immigrants.  Many other countries have higher percentages, for example, Switzerland with a population of 24.9 percent immigrants.

No one editorial can pose all the questions or answers concerning the status of the nation’s immigrant policies.  Research suggests that immigration to the United States is beneficial to the nation’s economy.  With few exceptions, the evidence suggests that immigration on average has positive effects on the current non-immigrant U.S. population.  In one segment of the population, the results are mixed.  This debate centers around the issue of how numbers of low-skilled immigrants affect their non-immigrant U.S. counterparts.

Studies also indicate that immigration either has no impact on the crime rate or that it reduces the crime rate in the United States according to a February 1917 article from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy titled “Are immigrants more likely to commit crimes?”

Research further indicates that the United States excels at assimilating first and second generation immigrants relative to many other Western countries.

In a time of intense interest in the subject of immigration, a look at the Immigration Trail Marker in Jonesborough after its rededication should help people decide their views on allowing people to continue to arrive in the nation seeking permanent resident status and citizenship.