“You know, and it gets into this whole issue of border security, you know, who’s gonna say that the borders are secure? We’ve got the House and the Senate debating this issue, and it’s… it’s really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants, “immigrant” has somehow become a bad word. So the debate rages on and we continue….”
– Lin-Manuel Miranda (lyrics from “Immigrant” from “Hamilton”
I no longer watch TV news, and I can barely listen to even NPR reports about refugees without shedding a tear or two. For 24 years as an English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) teacher, I taught people from other countries. Many of them were refugees. When I hear the stories about Somalis, I am deeply saddened. I am relieved that the US court system is fighting this ban of of the seven countries, including Somalia.
About 17 years into my teaching career, I taught an elegant adult woman student who was from Somalia. She is a Muslim. She wore her head scarf to class, and she was hard working student. Unless you teach English, other than Chinese, English is one of the hardest languages to learn. It has the largest vocabulary, infinite rules, and pronunciation that is inconsistent. If you are a non-native speaker, it is a great challenge to learn. Heck, most of us Americans have our own difficulties with learning English well.
Back to my student. She came consistently to class. Even though she was pregnant. She had a daughter who was elementary age. S always asked good questions, did her work, and was a kind presence in the class. She was the only African and Somali in this particular class. In the spring of the next year, I visited her when she had her son in the hospital. She was all smiles and very cheerful.
Unfortunately, this was the last year I taught this group of students. There was a great deal of change (not for the good) in the ESL department where I was teaching. Therefore, I did not have the opportunity to see S for several years. I was very depressed after this job ended. Both emotionally and financially, I was hit hard.
At least seven years later, I got a phone call from a woman with a lovely accent and a very soothing voice. It was S. I did reading and math tutoring, too, so she was calling me to help her daughter who was in Middle School, and her son who was seven by this time. I was so happy to see S again and tutor her children in one of the local libraries. Her son had become a good reader, and her daughter was a conscientious student, who needed help in math. S was still as elegant and kind as she ever had been. Then S also recommended me to tutor her neighbor’s son, too. Therefore, when I hear Somalis vilified because of some people’s irrational fears, I feel both angry and sad. Have the people who run scared ever met a person or a family from Somalia?
The crack-down on immigrants this last weekend by ICE is more of the same vilifying of groups of people who are part of the fabric of this country. In the state of Washington, farmers are wondering who will pick their crops. This is true for many farmers across the USA. Do our grocery store shelves need to be empty of fruit and vegetables before people in Washington, D.C. wake up? Not to mention the businesses that motivated immigrants have started in this country, and the many other jobs where they have contributed so much to our economy in the USA. At one point our president’s family was from Germany. Not every immigrant today is selling drugs or a criminal. Aren’t all of us immigrants, except for the First Nations’ tribes?
As a tribute and thank you to all immigrants, here is the entire song from “HAMILTON” called “Immigrants”.
The only way I see to stop all this fear, is to cover it with love. Our immigration authorities vet the refugees who cross our borders well. For the few bad apples, our courts and immigration officials are very capable and will deport them. For me, I stopped being fearful of “the other” when I opened my heart and mind and listened to learn about to what and who I did not know well. I believe that is possible for most of us. I am going to lead with my heart and keep on loving the new immigrants and refugees on every Valentine’s Day and every day.