Since childhood many of us have imagined what it would be like to sail among the stars and land on new worlds. We humans have what Herman Melville called an “everlasting itch for things remote”.
Perhaps, embedded in our genome, there is a nomadic inclination to travel. On this planet traversing the cosmos many people each year uproot their lives for myriad reasons and traverse this globe—many for an adventure, a job, a vacation or the quest for a new home.
It is those who search for a new home which seem to be the crux of the debate in current times. If I may propose a question:
What is an immigrant?
“An alien who has been granted the right by the USCIS to reside permanently in the United States and to work without restrictions in the United States. Also known as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). All immigrants are eventually issued a “green card” (USCIS Form I-551), which is the evidence of the alien’s LPR status. LPR’s who are awaiting the issuance of their green cards may bear an I-551 stamp in their foreign passports.
“Immigrant visas are available for aliens (and their spouses and children) who seek to immigrate based on their job skills. If an alien has the right combination of skills, education, and/or work experience and are otherwise eligible, the alien may be able to live permanently in the United States. Per USCIS, there are five employment-based immigrant visa preferences (categories): EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4 and EB-5. Refer to the USCIS Permanent Worker web site for more details.
The above is the government definition of an immigrant. However, immigrants are people, and as people they are part of the human race which inhabits this planet traversing the cosmos.
Let us hear from some of them why they came to this country:
“I made those sacrifices so I could have different opportunities: Being able to walk from home to the cafe or the park. Enjoying public spaces. A reliable postal service where I can send almost anything knowing that it will arrive and without it going through censors. Access to books and libraries. These things may seem trivial, but they make life a little simpler and richer.
“We all have an immigrant story, if not ourselves, then our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings. The only ones who don’t are Native Americans, individuals who were kidnapped, enslaved, and brought here against their will, and the original occupiers, aka pilgrims, who came to explore and conquer the existing society, not to integrate into it.
“The rest of us are immigrants.”
“I am a first generation American.
“My mother crossed the sea to this country from Israel, where her parents had fled after being expelled from Libya.
“As a baby, I slept in a tiny room in a barn with leaky ceilings, because my parents could afford nothing more. Sometimes we had no running water, and often no electricity, but it was OK because my dad had a guitar and my mom would sing along in her broken English to “You’ve Got a Friend,” by James Taylor and make me sandwiches out of canned sardines and hot sauce and I knew that I was safe and loved.
“As a child, my classmates commented on the mocha skin of my mother, said she was ugly, said I was ugly, said I killed Jesus, threw pennies at my feet, burned my hair on the bus.”
“I can say — not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots — that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.” Russian born Ayn Rand, https://campus.aynrand.org/lexicon/america
“Ten years ago, on September 11, 2011, I cast my first vote. It had been over a decade since I turned 18, but I left the country of my childhood at 17 to come to the U.S. as an international student. Through a long and circuitous path, I finally became a U.S. citizen in December 2000. I registered to vote at my swearing in ceremony, and excitedly anticipated the day when I could finally participate fully in the American democratic process. Alas, my first vote did not count, as it was cast only an hour or so before the historic and horrific attacks on our country. The New York City primary had to be rescheduled to a later date, as the City’s residents struggled to recover from the loss, shock and fear brought on by the attacks.” Indian born Sayu Bhojwani
These are people who chose to leave their homeland and travel to an alien land where hope and promise make dreams possible. Dreams are never to be viewed as chasing windmills.
A windmill catches the wind and does its job as it stands stationary. A person is not a windmill because people migrate like their progenitors did for countless centuries in search of what was over the horizon and a quest for a better life for them and their family as they traveled between worlds.
“For most immigrants, moving to the new country is an act of faith. Even if you’ve heard stories of safety, opportunity, and prosperity, it’s still a leap to remove yourself from your own language, people, and country. Your own history. What if the stories weren’t true? What if you couldn’t adapt? What if you weren’t wanted in the new country?”
Jamaican born Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also A Star
G. D. Williams © 2017
“Since the country’s founding, immigration has been one of its most contentious and controversial issues. In addition, many who have come to the U.S. came against their wills, as slaves, and many others who wished to enter the United States were barred for reasons ranging from foreign-policy issues to stereotypes to the prevalent political atmosphere of the time. As a result, the most common origins of American immigrants have shifted over the years, and some groups are better represented than others.
“But no matter where an immigrant comes from, the challenges of moving don’t end on the day he or she enters the United States: Once in the country, legally or illegally, naturalized or not, immigrants face tough decisions on how to present themselves, whether to give up their names or native languages, and what being “American” means for them. As a result, the immigration experiences of some Americans—even those the country embraces as icons—can be obscured. Here are the stories of eight American icons you might not have realized were immigrants:
John Muir (1849); Joseph Pulitzer (1864); Irving Berlin (1893); Rita Moreno (1936); Madeleine Albright (1948); Eddie Van Halen (1962); Joni Mitchell (1965) and Jerry Yang (1965)
15 Immigrants Who Made It Big
8 Famous Figures From American History Who Were Immigrants
PewResearch Center: Immigration
Immigrant Voices Makes Democracy Stronger: Sayu Bhojwani