Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Bronx: A Great Immigration Success Story

I will NEVER support measures to deport undocumented immigrants, especially not through roundups and police state tactics . Here's why; In the course of my research on Bronx history, I have had a chance to interview several people who came here on work visas or as visitors from various African countries and managed to stay in the US. Their stories were hearbreaking and inspiring. In every instance, they have contributed far more to this country than they have taken away
One person, who is currently a custodian at a Bronx school, described a twenty year path toward citizenship and legality that included work at car washes, stores and resaturants; enrollment in high school as a day student, followed by the receipt of multiple trade licenses in evening schools, and a work history that has always included a minimum of three jobs. Never, in his entire time in the US, has he slept more than 4 hours a night.
Another person, who now runs a successful import-export business and owns a food store, described being cheated and exploited by numerous landlords as he struggled to gain citizenship; along with participating in five different arranged marriages until he finally achieved his goal.of becoming an American citizen. He now employs more than 20 people here and in his home country and is a deacon in his local church.
If these stories were exceptions, I would be skeptical of their significance. But everywhere African immigrants have moved to in the Bronx, they have contributed to the revival of once decayed neighborhoods by working incredibly hard at multiple jobs, usually in transportation, health care and retail businesses, opening businesses, founding churches and Islamic centers, and pushing their children to work hard in school. If you look at valedictorians of Bronx high schools, you will see a huge representation of children of African immigrants. Some of these wonderful young people have ended up in my classes at Fordham- others have ended up attending Ivy League schools.
If people want to have a real debate on immigration in the US, fine. But make sure this is done dispassionately and fairly and includes stories of the kind I have just shared. And don't leave out the Bronx, which for the most part, remains the site of a great immigration success story.