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-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
I know I am not alone in feeling heartbroken at the pain and devastation being inflicted on families at our southern most border this week.
Plain and Simple: each of us, unless we are 100% Native American, are descendants of Immigrants.
I am the descendant of Irish and Italian Immigrants.
My Irish grandmother left her homeland with her three sisters at the age of 16 and sailed to America , arriving at Ellis Island , in search of a better life than the poverty known to her Irish farming parents.
My Italian Grandfather arrived with his mom and dad and five older sisters looking for a better way. He was four. None of them spoke English.
My relatives came, not expecting to receive a hand out, but sought asylum of an economic sort.
Through thrift and hard work, Nana put herself through nursing school. She later went on to marry an American citizen, had 5 children and became a pillar in her community.
Grandpa Tenaglia only attended school through grade six. Yet he worked his way from sweeping floors to become the owner of three shoe factories in Lynn, Massachusetts at the height of shoe manufacturing in the United States.
Their children became school teachers and tradesmen; their children’s children becoming lawyers, doctors, journalists and executives at Fortune 500 companies.
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially,
are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt
Our Stories are our Most Potent Medicine
I tell these tales because I know that YOUR history is similar.
What is your ethnic heritage? Where did your ancestors hail from? Do you know the stories of your ancestors journeys?
Why did your relatives make the journey ? Did America measure up to their expectations?
Revisiting and retelling the stories of our immigrant ancestors may help us to develop our compassion muscle, a necessary component for understanding the plight of current immigrant families.
I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum
to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind,
to whatever nation they might belong.
Why don’t immigrants just get in line?
At this writing President Trump has announced an end to separation of asylum seeking families at the border. While many (myself included) will celebrate family reunification as a victory, we need to look beyond the rhetoric to understand why immigrants would risk prosecution in the first place.
Currently more than 65 million people are displaced worldwide. Twenty two (22) million are refugees fleeing conflict or persecution. It is estimated that 53 % of the displaced are children.
According to NPR ” The number of immigrants the U.S. accepts has been drastically reduced. Obama set the refugee ceiling at 110,000 for 2017, but Trump cut that limit to 45,000 in 2018 , the lowest in decades.”
The International Rescue Commission estimates the U.S. is on track to only take in around 22,000 refugees this year, far less than the ceiling would allow.
Immigration to the United States, on a temporary or permanent basis, is generally limited to three different routes: employment, family reunification, or humanitarian protection. The rules governing each of these classifications are stringent.
~For employment based immigration, a US employer must request specific foreign workers. Essentially an employer must have a need for a desired skill set and a job waiting.
~Family-based immigration is limited to certain relationships (spouse, children, parents and siblings) and may be modified dependent on whether sponsor is a US citizen or green card holder. In either case, this type of immigration is subject to its own caps.
~Humanitarian protection is defined as “well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, or national origin”. Poverty does not qualify.
For aspiring immigrants choosing to “get in line” there may be significant back logs dependent on the country they are emigrating from.
But for many others, there is no eligibility available at all.
What Would You Do?
Weighing impending poverty, homelessness and starvation for my family versus possible prosecution, I cannot say that I would choose to go the lawful route.
In all honesty, can you?
To Learn More:
Toward a more compassionate world,