Unwelcome in America - The pain of an immigrant
(Credit to Bulworth for the subtitle)
I first came to the United States about five years ago. My journey to a life in America has been a long, expensive and complex process that is still incomplete as I have yet to attain U.S. citizenship.
I remember making the decision to come to this country, it was because I wanted to get away from the negatives affecting my life in Canada, I wanted to marry my fiance (now my wife) and I wanted to start fresh and embark on a great adventure.
At first that’s how it was, a great, exciting adventure. America had a certain alluring quality to it. My mind went wild about what I might accomplish as a newly minted American when I finally got to that point.
But something has changed.
Suddenly, I feel that immigrants, long the backbone of the prosperity of this country, are becoming victims of a vicious, prolonged, nasty, needless non-violent persecution at the hands of politicians, pundits and special interest groups who are convinced we are the cause of most of America’s problems.
When I look at my green card, I’m not exactly sure what it represents anymore. Is it still the symbol of the freedom and rights I have earned as a U.S. resident or is it now something of a bullseye, a convenient way to mark me as one of “them”?
In one way I am fortunate, my white skin and minimal accent has shielded me from certain prejudices other immigrants are exposed to. On the flip side, it’s been fascinating to sit there and listen to certain individuals rag on immigrants and all the trouble they cause, while they are completely unaware that I am part of the group they are referring to.
And therein lies part of the issue. The people who have been actively blaming all of society’s ills on immigrants are working from a certain perception of what an immigrant is, what he does, and what he looks like.
To them, the notion of immigrants is typically limited to stereotypes and generalizations: Housekeepers at a hotel, the guy wearing a Turban at the 7/11, the Latinos who hang out at Home Depot looking for day work or of course, that great immigrant occupation: Taxi Drivers.
But the reality is far more complex and diverse than these people would ever care to consider. The immigrant population of the United States is far more than just “brown people” earning meager wages.
In my own family, four of us (all white) have immigrated to America. We’ve all held steady jobs and generally been productive members of society. Not that taxi drivers and housekeepers aren’t productive, but just as there are immigrants who drive cabs, there are also plenty involved in more complicated work as well.
Also, the notion that immigrants are leeches on social welfare programs is grossly inaccurate. In my five years here, I have been on food stamps for about 6 months. Many times I have gone hungry or without things like hot water simply because I am trying to make ends meet. Also, I pay taxes like everyone else.
Now of course my experience alone is not indicative of major trends, but I believe its inaccurate to assume the majority of those on the welfare rolls are either dark skinned immigrants or inner city blacks interested in “living the high life” on Uncle Sam’s dime.
Even the recent Heritage study, promoting the idea that large swaths of immigrants are “less intelligent” than large swaths of born Americans is yet another slap in the face to all the hardworking immigrants in this country.
As I look at the picture of the Statue of Liberty above, a troubling question enters my mind:
Does America still want me?
More and more these days, I’m not sure of the answer. I may not be brown skinned and I may be here legally, but I still unfairly attacked and lumped in and branded simply because I’m an immigrant. At times, it almost seems like the statue is holding a pitchfork alongside the torch.
New assaults seem to be happening almost daily. Consider this item, from a list of five controversial amendments added to the currently in development Immigration reform bill:
4. Requiring DNA samples from prospective immigrants
In addition to providing their basic background information, future immigrants to the U.S. would also have to submit a DNA sample for the government to keep on file.
At least that’s what Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is proposing. Under one of Hatch’s amendments — he submitted 24 total — immigrants would be required to provide a
DNA sample that would be checked against federal criminal databases.
“Inclusion of a DNA profile as part of any background check will ensure that decisions regarding residency status are made with fullest search of criminal activity and identification available,” Hatch’s office said in a statement.
The bill as written would ask immigrants for fingerprints and photos, but supporters say that a DNA database would be a massive encroachment on personal privacy.
My DNA? The government now wants MY DNA???? SERIOUSLY?!
For those who may not be aware, as part of the current process, a prospective immigrant must provide to the U.S. government the following:
- Medical and vaccination records
- A complete list of ANY and ALL visits to the U.S. , from your birth to present day.
- A complete job history going back 10 years
- A residency history going back at least 5 years
- A criminal background check
- Notarized affidavits from people who know you attesting to your integrity and the validity of the other information you’ve provided
And now on top of ALL THAT comes this ridiculous idea to require a DNA sample on top of it. Gee Mr. Hatch, would you like my first born while we’re at it?
If I sound bitter, it’s because I am.
If I sound angry, it’s because I am.
If I sound frustrated, it’s because I AM.
I have been unfairly painted with a broad, colored brush.
I have been unfairly targeted as a member of a larger group as somehow “undesirable”
I have been labeled as an issue, a concern, a problem.
It’s truly sad and unfortunate that we’ve gone from the symbolism and thirst for a new life at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to country that, in part anyway, seems hell bent on making it really, REALLY hard for immigrants to come here and doing whatever they can to kick out those who already here.
That is not Freedom.
That is not Liberty.
That is not America.
But despite my concerns, I’m going to stay. I’m not going to let these people drive me out. I’m not going to let them get away with labeling me unfairly. I will stay, I will fight and (hopefully) I will succeed.
Thank you for reading and thank you to those who care not for labels and still see America as the great melting pot she is.