AUGUST 4, 2010 4:48PM

One Immigrant’s View of the ‘Immigration Problem’

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A major U.S. newspaper has asked immigrant readers to relate their immigration stories and experiences and, in particular, how they have been affected by illegal immigration---in 250 words or fewer.

As one of those immigrants--with a story to tell--I have responded.

However, 250 words are not sufficient to fully tell such a story. Fortunately, here at Open Salon I have the opportunity to expand on my thoughts and recollections.

Recollections that start on a rainy morning in April 1957 at New York’s Idlewild airport, when a bright-eyed, overjoyed 17-year-old youth stepped off a KLM airplane and joined the tens of millions of immigrants who have made their way, legally, to the "promised land."

Today, 53 years later, I have fulfilled every bit of my “American dream” beyond my wildest imagination, including having had the honor of serving my adopted country for 20 years both in the enlisted ranks and as a commissioned officer. 

I will never forget the incredible benefits, blessings and freedoms I have enjoyed since coming to America.

 

But neither will I forget the powerful attraction America held for me and how such an attraction may be almost impossible to resist for those who live under desperate economic, social or political conditions all around the world---especially those living in sheer squalor literally footsteps away from opportunity and hope.

It is therefore that--while not condoning illegal immigration--I empathize with those undocumented immigrants who have been in our country for many years, who are law-abiding and productive members of our communities, who have raised fine families, who have become in every respect--except for a piece of paper--loyal Americans. Many of these young men have even managed to join and serve in our armed forces and some of them have made the ultimate sacrifice for a country that is not yet theirs.

Yes, we must solve our “immigration problem,” but we must not go back to the days when our government forcefully relocated and interned approximately 110,000 loyal Japanese Americans, because of fear and hysteria.

We must not go back the days when the accusations of a powerful politician and his cronies resulted in thousands of innocent and loyal Americans being imprisoned, losing their jobs, denied employment, harassed, humiliated—their lives ruined--because of fear and hysteria.

Yes, we must solve the problem, but we must totally reject those who, today, would compile lists of men, women and children--and don’t forget those “anchor babies”---that would result in human beings being taken from their homes, humiliated, interrogated, arrested, imprisoned, uprooted, separated from their loved ones, to “be immediately deported,” especially since “[s]ome of the women on the list are pregnant at this time and steps should be taken for immediate deportation.” [i]

We must totally reject the methods used by those “list makers,” methods such as to “observe these individuals in our neighborhoods, driving our streets, working in our stores, attending our schools and entering our public welfare buildings,” and then to “spend the time and effort needed to gather information along with legal Mexican nationals who infiltrate their social networks and help us obtain the necessary information we need to add them to our list.” [ii]

I know that the America I have come to love, respect, serve and to proudly call my homeland  can and will find a more humane, a more American way to deal with our “immigration problem,” other than through harassment, profiling, the tearing apart of families, detention or imprisonment and  through eventual, cold-hearted mass deportations.

By all means, let’s rationally and in a bipartisan manner reform our immigration system and, henceforth, let’s more strictly, intelligently and efficiently secure our borders and enforce the resulting immigration laws.

However, in doing so let’s not forget who we are and where we live: We are compassionate, righteous and generous Americans living in “the land of the free and the brave.”

Most of all, let’s never forget that we once recited:

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 



[i] From the letter to authorities accompanying the Utah  list of 1,300

[ii] Ibid


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This is an excellent post. I do hope it receives wide readership. My last post was also about immigration...."Immigration - Another Political Dog and Pony Show."
Several years ago I was a manager for a large pizza chain. I was asked by the local Rabbi to hire the Russian Jews that they were helping come into this country. He felt if they had to interact with the everyday people it would force them to use their English and make them better able to live faster in this country. The were some brave, smart and all around very good people.

But should their wait to do what you did be extended by those who did not wait their turn? What would have been your thoughts if you had been turned down because of those who crossed into this country in the middle of the night?

First let's divide those here illegally into two groups. The first group I lean very hard on letting them stay. If you were brought here as a child, and you have reached the age of majority, are living on your own just like the guy next door I have no problem with you staying. Even if you are a criminal and you never knew the country you were born in, you should just get locked up here like any other criminal.

The other group needs to be subject to being sent back to their other country, including the kids. With that being said, it's not practical to just "round them up" and send them packing. They didn't all come overnight, we can't send them all home overnight.

The first ones to go should be those who commit a crime, and I'm not talking able J-walking. They, along with their family should be sent back. You can't send dad and leave the wife and kids behind. If they are not here legally then they are subject to being sent back. Don't break up the family, send them all. You drug the kids over, you can drag them back.

So what about the rest? I believe that if we turn off the jobs at the employer the rest, over time, will go home, die of old age or something, but as they slowly leave they will not be replaced.

We really don't need new laws. We just need to start to enforce the ones we have. Granted some may need to be "adjusted" but that is different than sweeping overhauls of the system. I don't know about you, but Congress didn't/wouldn't enforce the laws they now have on the books, what makes you think they will enforce what ever new scheme they come up with?

What do you think?
Thank you for your comments, catnlion.

As you say, most people who go through the tedious and time-consuming process of legally immigrating to our country are "brave, smart and all around very good people" and should not have to have their "wait" extended by those "who do not wait their turn," and who cross into this country "in the middle of the night," and I don't think this happens. I do not believe that legal immigration laws and quotas are not based on how many people enter our country illegally.

The thrust of my post was on how to deal with those undocumented immigrants who have been in our country for many years and who have become loyal and productive members of our society.

You touch on a couple of ways on how to do that and while I don't necessarily agree with them, that is exactly the kind of dialogue we need, one that is not just: "round'em up, arrest'em, jail'em and ship'em out--all 12 million of'em."

As to:

"We really don't need new laws. We just need to start to enforce the ones we have. Granted some may need to be "adjusted" but that is different than sweeping overhauls of the system."

"By all means, let’s rationally and in a bipartisan manner reform our immigration system and, henceforth, let’s more strictly, intelligently and efficiently secure our borders and enforce the resulting immigration laws.

However, in doing so let’s not forget who we are and where we live: We are compassionate, righteous and generous Americans living in “the land of the free and the brave.”
I constantly hear it from conservatives. " Let them come here legally!"
The simple fact is for many, they cannot! For one reason or another, our government does not allow them to come here legally. Such as people from Haiti, and other poverty stricken areas. While we gleefully allow Cubans who manage to step foot on our shores to stay. Why? Because they come from a COMMUNIST country. That despite the fact that the poor probably have it better there, than they would here. It's the same for Mexicans. They can't just go and say " I want to come to America!". Yes we need to straighten up our immigration laws. Either you allow immigration, or you do not. We need to end quotas period!
There is a lot to ponder in what you wrote, Kenny.

Thank you