Monday, June 22, 2015

I was an illegal immigrant

A few years ago I stood up at a conference where the discussion was illegal immigrants and banking and announced I'd been an illegal immigrant. There was a sudden hush. A well-educated, middle-class journalist didn't fit the stereotype.

I'd lived in France longer than my visa trying to find work.

Mostly when we think of illegals it's: 
  • Latins pouring over the US border
  • Africans crossing the Med 
  • Middle Easterners fleeing wars
  • Asians trying to get to Australia
  • Africans fearing slaughter by other tribes

I wouldn't have the nerve to equate my situation with theirs. I just wanted a better social contract and wasn't fearing for my life. My immigration was on a plane and I'd been bumped to business class. My Japanese chins were in the hole of the plane.  I remember eating lamb and drinking a glass of champagne. I was not on a boat that might capsize crammed shoulder to shoulder with other people.The people on the boat above could die of dehydration.

Immigrants have always felt persecution long before signs in Boston windows said, "No Irish Apply" or Jews being sent back to Hitler.

In Argelès in 1939 100,000 immigrants suddenly showed up fleeing Franco and were placed in unbearable conditions in a make shift concentration camp on the beach where many starved or froze to death.

Mankind has never learned to solve the problem of immigrants nor looked at the causes.

Many Latinos would love to stay in their own country but trade policies have made it impossible to sell their farm products. That's just one example.

We as a race haven't learned how to handle tragedy immigrants. We shun them, say they want to steal jobs, don't want to integrate.

Are there other ways like:
  • How many chances have they been given to integrate? 
  • Why couldn't there be language and culture classes? 
  • Why couldn't there be an adopt an immigrant program where people take one or more into their homes much like little kids were taken into homes in the countryside to keep them safe for bombings?
Better yet, maybe stop the causes of desperation by looking at the impact of trade treaties and wars before starting them. 

1 comment:

Maria said...

My father was an illegal immigrant in Boston in 1964. At the time he was working on a cargo ship. When it docked in Virginia, he just walked off and found his way north to Boston, where his brother-in-law was living. He found a job and was able to work for a year until he was found and deported. When we returned as a family (legally) he went back to the same construction company and they gave him his job back, five years later. Spain has had a long history of emigration, with both economic and political emigrants. We haven't always been welcome (I've read about the beach in Argelès) and that's why we should understand and welcome those escaping from the Middle East and Africa.