on immigration stories …

I got my haircut this morning–one of my favorite things to do!  When I get my hair cut I usually just sit there and let the person cutting do their thing … I'm not a chatty haircut-ee.  As I've been on the road, it has been about three months since I've been to the Fantastic Sam's where I get my (meager) locks trimmed and in that time, R., a woman who has cut my hair for almost ten years lost a ton of weight so I complimented her on her accomplishment.  That got us chatting about changing her diet, cooking her El Salvadorian cuisine in more healthy ways, and feeding her family more fresh fruits and veggies.  In the course of our conversation it came out that yesterday, R. took her oath of citizenship and is now AN AMERICAN!!!  Her pride and the sense of achievement was wonderful to see and it got me thinking about the immigration stories the we hear all the time. 

If all you ever listen to are people like Lou Dobbs and others of his ilk, you'd have no chioce but to conclude that all immigrants to America were "dirty brown people" (okay, I know that he and is ilk would never actually "say" such, but it doesn't take much to decode the thinly veiled language …) who want to come to America to suck off the teat of the American nanny state, get free health care, and buy lobster with their food stamps. 

Are there a lot of illegal immigrants in the U.S.?  I'm sure there are and living in California has made me realizet that, this obviously is an issue that the U.S. must deal with, but there are many many more legal immigrants to the U.S. who work hard, make the U.S. a much better place, and who's stories don't get any air play so people in the middle of the country (where there likely are far fewer immigrants) can see that there's probably a lot less to fear about immigrants than they think.

R. cuts hair for a living (okay she's not the best stylist I've ever seen, but she works hard and gives me a decent cut for the right price), she's raising three sons (the oldest of whom is in college), and her husband (a U.S. born citizen if it matters to you) works in maintenence.  They are the embodyment of the American dream, right?

There is the family who live next door to us who are immigrants from Mexico.  E. is a chef at California Pizza kitchen, his wife I. is an office clerk, their daughter S. is an honor student in an LAUSD magnet school for students who are academically gifted, and their youngest daughter Y. is entering the second grade and gives her mom fits because she only wants to speak English and her Spanish is, apparently, horrible!!!  They are also the embodyment of the American dram, righ?

Finally, S/O and I went to an open house where we met a young man named, L., who emmigrated from Guatemala with his family when he was fifteen.  He is now 26 and owns a place of his own and a second rental property because he "worked his a** off since he was fifteen doing anything he could like construction, recycling cans, and going to school." He also, "keeps a raincoat on" when he is with his girlfriend so he won't end up with "five or seven kids" like some of his friends (who where born in the U.S.).  L. saved his money, doesn't drive a nice car, and has basic cable and a basic cell phone plan because he wants to save his money in order to invest in another place.  This kid is the embodyment of the American dream, right?

Now, IMHO, American's who are willing to work hard and do what it takes to be competitive have nothing to fear from any of these immigrants.  If, however, you didn't study when you were in school; spend your money on leasing a BMW and an iPhone even though you don't own your own place or pay off your credit cards every month ; or you  can't save money for a down payment because you NEED to have a designer shoes, wear jeans that cost $200, or you just spend all your money on beer or are just lazy (each one of these stories are from American born people in my gym) … Then you have something to fear, but that really is your own making isn't it???

I don't reall blame Lou Dobbs and his ilk.  He's selling a product … news … And he's getting rich doing it … But as American's let's start being a bit more honest about who we are and stop scapegoating …  It'll be painful to do, but it'll also be a lot healthier for all of us in the end …


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3 thoughts on “on immigration stories …

  1. Well, you have a valid point. However, I think in every bag of apples there is one rotten apple. The problem is that only the rotten letter in that alphabet story that you just told gets reported because news is usually bad news not good news. I think that immigration is a complex issue and it involves many more aspects in this economy we are in. If we really believe that Health Insurance is a right and not a priviledge as Ted Kennedy theorized than we need to keep the population under control to accomodate the economy. I am only a second generation American myself so the dilema of immigrants is a very hard issue to deal with. There were many of my Irish family that would have loved to move here but as they cannot walk across the border, it is impossible. I think the opportunity should be given equally to everyone, not just those that got it the wrong way. All of us came from somewhere, that is what America is!

  2. I'd guess that in every bag of apples, there is more than one rotten one. That is absolutely true and there is no doubt that illegal immigration is a very significant problem in the U.S. My main point (probably not made so well) is that there needs to be a more thoughtful balance in how we look at the problems and benefits that come with immigration or any immigration reform could well create a whole host of other unforeseen negative consequences. (I think you are right in saying that health care as it stands now IS adversely affected by illegal immigration, but I also believe that according to the LA Times, as of August 17, 2009, House Bill 3200 "unequivocally declares that illegal immigrants cannot receive taxpayer funds to help buy coverage …"). Finally a secondary, but important (to me at least) point is that the thinly cloaked racism that some TV pundits have taken to employing in order to sell papers or get ratings is highly unhelpful to having a thoughtful debate. I am Chinese-American. About a year ago, I was out having dinner with my significant other and a very well meaning elderly man congratulated me on my English. As a FOURTH GENERATION American with TWO master's degrees (it's true, in spite of how poorly this blog is written), I was pretty insulted, but I realized that he really didn't mean to be rude. He was just a man of his time and in his day most Americans were white. After we chatted for a bit, I came to understand that from watching Glen Beck regularly, he got the idea that "new immigrants don't like to learn English." Anyway, my significant other is a second generation Italian-American so on technical points I'm WAY MORE American than my significant other (if we were keeping score, of course). Because my facial features, complexion, and hair don't look like those of most fourth generation Americans I seem to increasingly be identified as a "new immigrant" (and sometimes seen as the new immigrant taking away a "good American job."). Before all of this immigration fear mongering, I never recall having interactions like that so something is changing and as I'm sure you can imagine … That bums me out! Anyway, thanks for the interesting and thought provoking comment. I really just write my blog for myself so I amazes me when I find out that people actually read it … LOL …

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