The border I crossed into the USA wasn’t a river or a run through the night. I flew in, with a warm welcome at baggage claim, but, I, too, had to answer questions like everyone else. We immigrants—with and without papers—stand in lines, have lots of medical tests, answer heaps of questions, and even hand in our personal “love letters” to prove our relationships. I did an English test. I declared whether or not I was a communist. I was told to put away my “British” passport by one government personnel—his blank look stating more than his spoken “same thing” when I explained it was Australian.
I’ve stood in a room full of other immigrants from all over the globe where we were asked, in front of the others, about our STDs and HIV status. To give the immigration officers the benefit of the doubt in this clearly inappropriate situation, they probably assumed we didn’t understand the English answers of our fellow questionees. In the satisfaction survey I likened the experience to cattle herding. Myself the animal in question.
- Immigrants are people, too.
I am convinced that the number of immigrants a person knows personally is inversely proportional to that person’s perception of immigration as a “problem”. Ask an immigrant what they think about their new home nation, how thankful they are, how their job is going, how their family is. You might find another human being in them.
My outlook on this was changed long before I became an immigrant myself. I had the privilege of not only hearing David Bussau speak about his micro-finance development organization, Opportunity International, but of asking the Australian-of-the-Year questions and advice, his vision and world-changing efforts astounding my provincial mind. He sees beyond what we often think of as “poor”–he sees the value of people who who are not monetarily wealthy, and he is making a way forward for them where there hasn’t been a way before. David is changing the world. David is an immigrant to Australia from an orphanage in New Zealand.
For every person who may fit the mold of “a drain on society”, there are many more working very hard just to make ends meet. Some of your immigrants will be your greatest citizens. Most of your immigrants are the brightest and the best of other nations. Being successful and prosperous has a lot do with where you were born, your family background and connections, and the education you received. Yes, determination and hard work, too. But perhaps it would do to remind ourselves that if we were stripped of the privilege we were born into many of us would be living a different life.
Let’s look clearly, not with prejudiced or blind-sided evaluation. Apart from whose of us who are Native Americans, the USA is a nation of immigrants. The USA is a wonderful, free country (like many other countries), and the USA will stand strong through wisdom and education, avoiding stereotyping and quick fixes, fostering strong communities and healthy working conditions.
By Jonathan McCallum