To the editor:

Lately I've been thinking about why it was so easy for my family to be accepted as Americans once we learned the English language (one of the world's most difficult languages to learn). I grew up in a family speaking both English and Finnish, and primarily Finnish at family gatherings.

We fairly easily assimilated. My father changed his funny-spelled and hard-to-pronounce last name and joined the Navy. And although my grandparents spoke English with a foreign accent (my paternal grandparents spoke only Finnish), my parents had no accent. But if they'd had skin of a different color, say yellow, brown, or black, I suspect our assimilation wouldn't have been so easy.

Today, is it immigrants crossing our southern border illegally, or their skin color, that makes immigration such an issue? America was built by immigrants of all colors. And, unless you're Native American, you yourself are of immigrant ancestry.

But immigrants of our grandparents' era were overwhelmingly from Europe, and light-skinned, whereas today's immigrants are overwhelmingly from Asia and Latin America. European immigrants also spoke a different language, but the distinguishing characteristic of today's immigrants is skin color.

Immigrants (white, black, yellow, and brown), along with native Americans, are what make America the unique, and great, nation we are today. We are a "melting pot" of people of all colors from all over the world who have created, and kept, the world's oldest democracy.

We can control the number of immigrants with reasonable policies and practices. But at the same time we should celebrate immigration, our national heritage, not condemn it.

Gary Parker