I LOVE Immigrants and Refugees

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“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.

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I Am an Immigrant

barbaraewadeExcept for First Nations’ people or indigenous people, ALL of the rest of us Americans are immigrants, including me. I am from English and French descendants. My mother’s side (French and English) arrived in colonial North America on the Mayflower, but so what!

“We all came on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

My point is that the USA is a nation of immigrants, so I refuse to vilify immigrants.

In my lifetime for nearly 8 years I was an immigrant living as a student in another country. It was a memorable experience in a beautiful country. However, even though I learned the language and spoke it fluently (it took about 2 years), I was always an outsider. At the time many of our friends were immigrants too, some of them from the former Czechoslovakia which became two countries in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Several of those friends were actually refugees because they were fleeing a 1968 upheaval in Czechoslovakia when Soviet troops invaded their country. Other friends were from Austria. Later on we had friends who were from the country where we lived. Some of those friends had family members who were both from that country where we lived and married to people who were also immigrants themselves. From this experience, I learned what it felt like to be an immigrant, the pressure of the challenges that I had to face to live in a different culture each day, and to not feel fully accepted by the people in that country.

When I taught English to immigrants as an English-as-a Second-Language teacher, my own experience helped me to feel compassion towards my students and their difficulties. As a language teacher, I knew how hard it was to learn a foreign language. As I learned while teaching, English is one of the most difficult languages to learn on the planet because of pronunciation problems and the number of words in English. For non-native speakers, it is even more difficult than it is for those of us who are born in the USA.

For those Americans who have lived several generations in the USA and are citizens, some of us have fallacies about what we know about new undocumented immigrants. Here is some debunking of those untruths:

1. Undocumented workers do in FACT pay TAXES, over $11.6 BILLION. Here’s a report.

http://www.itep.org/immigration/?gclid=CjwKEAjwgdS-BRDA7fT68f6s8zMSJADZwHmvEYhcFPZaf3d-hbh86cw_ek68eiQ41MbC7by-c1LxERoCN4fw_wcB

2. Illegal immigrants make up only 5% of the the workforce for the USA. Thus, we cannot claim that illegal immigrants are “taking” all our jobs! This report is from 2015.

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.

3. From “Forbes” magazine. Here is another article from the end of 2015 about how illegal immigrants help this country and DON’T take our JOBS.
http://www.learnliberty.org/blog/art-carden-illegal-immigrants-dont-lower-our-wages-or-take-our-jobs/?

4. Through American history immigrants have started some of the most important businesses in this country. This website names many of them.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

USA’S HISTORY WITH IMMIGRANTS

WE Americans forced about 400,000 people from AFRICA to come to the USA
We forced them into slavery.
Many died during the crossing of the “Middle Passage”.
Slavery lasted nearly 400 (from the 1500s to 1865) years.
Africans and African Americans have NEVER been made
To feel welcomed by many Americans.

We brought Chinese workers to the USA to build railroads and mine gold in 1848.
From 1882 to 1943 America BANNED new Chinese people from immigrating
With the Chinese Exclusion Act.
They were never made to feel completely welcomed.

The Irish people came in 1848 after the potato famine
About 1 million Irish people had died of starvation in Ireland.
In 1848 WE put up signs where they landed in the USA,
That said about jobs: “Irish need not apply”.
Initially they were not welcomed.

The Italian people arrived in the USA beginning in late 1800s.
The greatest immigration was from 1900- 1924.
They faced great prejudice and name calling.
After 50% of the immigrant Italians earned money in the USA,
They returned to Italy.
That is how welcomed many Italians felt.

In the 1880s Americans allowed Japanese people to immigrate.
Workers were needed because in Pacific Northwest
Railroads needed to be built,
And we had already banned the Chinese, so….
During World War II, the Japanese living
On the West coast of the USA
Were put into internment or concentration camps
From 1942 to 1946.
Many of the young Japanese American men and women in those camps
Served in all branches of the service
As soldiers during World War II.
Today some Japanese people may still feel unwelcomed in the USA.

Latino people have always been in the USA.
They were the second people to inhabit the USA after the indigenous people.
They lived in states such as in California, Florida, and New Mexico.
They were in Texas and Arizona.
We people of the USA came later with bigger guns!
What do you think the Alamo was about?
Today many have vilified Latino people for coming here.
We have made SURE they do not feel welcomed
In the past and today.

I could go on. I’ve left out many groups of people,
Who will we unwelcome next?

Or we, as a people, could choose to actually embrace our role,
As a nation of immigrants,
And break the pattern of our xenophobic past.
Maybe then we can ACTUALLY begin to live as a nation
With liberty and justice for ALL.

I am an immigrant in the USA. That is something I try to remember when I see or meet a new immigrant. I have had the good fortune to teach immigrants, so I have little or no fear welcoming them to this my country. They may look different from me, have different customs, and accents. I had and still have an accent when I speak German and Spanish. In our country we have different accents in different regions. I make an effort to be more open hearted towards all people, and I know this is the right thing to do because I am a fellow human being with everyone in this country and on this planet. It is the hate and fear that separates us, love binds us together. All I can do is strive towards love.

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“Blowing in the Wind”

The photos last week of the little 5 year-old Syrian boy who had survived the bombing, touched my heart. Often I have to turn off stories about the Syrian war. By now it is possible that between 200,000 and 400,000 thousand people have died. Often all I feel I can do is pray. I am a peace supporter. I protested the second Iraq War of George W. Bush for months and months. I became a peace advocate in my 30s, so I was not a hippy in the 60s and 70s and part of the protest of the Vietnam War. However, today Bob Dylan’s song touches my heart, particularly the line:
“Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’till he knows
That too many people have died?”
When will all these wars end? “Blowing in the Wind” answers that question for me.

That is how I feel about the endless wars that have been the backdrop of my entire life. I did not experience them directly, but I had a taste of them through teaching some of the immigrants I taught English to as an English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) teacher. First, I learned a little from my Vietnamese students in New Hampshire and even in North Carolina and also from the other teachers who taught with me. This was long after the War in Vietnam had ended (in 1990).

The first year I taught as an ESL teacher, I read “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places” by Le Ly Hayslip. Ms. Hayslip is Vietnamese, so the book was written from her perspective. When I saw the movie that Stone made from her book, it became much more the point of view of her American soldier husband, so Hayslip’s story was diminished. In any case, her book helped me to slightly understand who I was teaching at the time. I learned that first year teaching that the wars we Americans fight, when our troops leave these countries, they are left destroyed. After destroying their countries, then there is new wave of displaced people and immigrants who have suffered the ravages of war at the hand of American foreign policy.

Later in my career I taught Korean students, Palestinians, a few Syrian students, long before the present war in Syria. One of those students had a family that was living in Egypt when it used to be more stable. I had the good fortune to teach students from most of the countries of the world and because we needed to practice speaking and listening besides teaching English, I was able to learn something about their lives.

I love the USA, but I have deeply revulsion to our foreign policies in world. I believe that since the end of World War II, which ended before I was born, most of our foreign policies have been bankrupt, greedy, and very destructive.

A man who understood war well, President (and General) Dwight Eisenhower, warned us Americans before he left office at the beginning of 1961 NOT to create a “Military-Industrial Complex”.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
-President Dwight David Eisenhower

This is President Eisenhower’s entire farewell speech:

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm

Our politicians did not heed Eisenhower’s wisdom. Greed superseded wisdom.

I have no idea how to stop all of the wars. What I do know is that I personally must be at peace within myself and like myself. When I am feeling down, I notice I am NOT as kind to others. I have to start by being kind to myself. Stressing myself about “getting things done” and pressuring myself is NOT a good way to treat myself. Also when I disconnect myself from my heart and my source, I find I think and act more negatively towards others. I believe this is the beginning of callousness towards others and the “roots of all war”. All I can do is correct myself. If each of us, focuses on our own lives and also is willing to work with others, I believe it is possible to end war. Also getting the profit and greed out of war and selling implements of war: guns, rockets, etc. to others is also necessary. No telling when that might happen. No matter what, I can still be as peaceful as I can and live a happier life because I choose to be kinder towards myself and others.

I love this song. It says my point of view in a song, “Down to YOU”. Thank you, Bonnie Raitt.

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Thank You to Our Ancestors and Ourselves

ESL students

Adult ESL Class

Who built the USA?  THANK YOU!

I have had the good fortune to teach new immigrants from all over the world English in the USA. From them I have learned how we are one human family. In the USA, all of us have come from nearly every continent in the world  and were immigrants except for indigenous Americans.

Our country was built by African slaves who suffered in slavery and with no compensation for 244 years.  Thank you to all African Americans and your people. The Chinese Americans and other Asian groups helped to build America’s rails. Thank you to you and your people. The Irish, Italians, Germans, French, and other peoples who constructed our cities, our roads, farmed our land, and worked our docks.  Thank you to all your people. The English brought their ideas and started a new model of government.  Thank you to you and your people. Thank you to all people of all cultures and countries who were and are our teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, architects, shopkeepers, bank tellers, therapists, computer designers, administrative assistants, social workers, athletes, police officers, firemen, postal workers, ministers, some lawyers, writers, artists, and artisans.

Thank you ALL for bringing your food, creativity, music, dance, and culture to this country. In the twentieth and this century we have become a home to so many other cultures from all over the world that it is difficult to name all of them.  This country would not be possible without all the Americans workers here, past and present. It has taken ALL of us to get where we are. It is time to thank OURSELVES, too.

We can’t undo this part of our heritage (slavery). But what we can affect is where we are headed. I want to talk about multiculturalism because I think that is where we are headed.

Dr. John Hope Franklin, Historian

See a video from 1998 with John Hope Franklin:

video.pbs.org/video/2264169644/

Who do you think built the USA?

 

 

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