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New Beginnings

by Ellen George
April 17, 2017

In the past, America has had a history of welcoming new immigrants, but it has also turned many away. History has been the judge of this mistake.

My student showed me his cell phone. “Look teacher, look what’s happening in my home town in Brazil” he said. “Are you sure you want to see it?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, even though the look on his face and the trembling in his voice told me that it was probably something terrible. “My friend still lives there.” He said. “He took a video of what’s happening and sent it to me.”

With some apprehension, I took the phone and watched the video his friend had taken. What I saw was cold blooded murder; people were being gunned down in the streets. It was a state of chaos and utter lawlessness.

I was horrified, sick to my stomach, but knew I had to act strong for him and others in the class. I told my student that I was very sorry that this was happening in his country and wondered why we hadn’t heard about this on the nightly news here in the United States.

Later, I checked the Internet and found that this incident and others were in fact, true. The Guardian had reported on February 10, 2017, “a week of violent anarchy that left 120 people dead. The authorities in this Brazilian state had indicted more than 700 striking military police officers on the charge of the crime of revolt.”

The Guardian also reported that a budget crisis in Brazil was, “crippling essential public services for millions of citizens. The police strike over the past week, over pay, has left a security vacuum and led to rampant assaults, heists and looting, often in broad daylight.” (The Guardian, 2/10/17)

At our next class, I could see that my student was still shaken by these events. I asked him how he felt about his country and what had happened. I asked, if the problems in his country were resolved, would he want to return someday? The student, obviously frightened vowed that he would never go back to his homeland.

As a teacher of English as a Second Language for the past eleven years,     I have heard many stories like this. A student from Mexico, an American Citizen, born in the U.S. to Mexican parents, migrant workers who traveled back and forth from Mexico to the U.S to pick crops in Texas and California, must now remain in the U.S. living with an aunt. The student is now eighteen years old and a prime target for the drug cartels if he returns to his parental home in Mexico.

Then there is another student, a woman whose child has a rare disease and cannot be treated in her home country. “I had to come here,” the mother told me, “or my child would die.”

These are only a few of the immigrants whom I have met over the years while teaching English. Many more have told me harrowing stories of how they risked their lives to come to the U.S., and many have remained silent, perhaps out of fear. But all have come here for a chance at a new beginning.

“What do you like best about America?” I always ask my students. Their first answer is always the same, “We feel so safe here,” they say. Their next answer, “Because in America, there is freedom.”

To new immigrants, America is a beacon of democracy, calling them and others to a new life, a life free of fear, with the promise of opportunity, the opportunity to create for themselves and those they love, a new beginning.

In the past, America has had a history of welcoming new immigrants, but it has also turned many away. History has been the judge of this mistake.

This is not the time to be punishing those trying to enter our country at our southern border, or to instill fear in undocumented families who have been living in the U.S. for many years; families who have been living upstanding lives and contributing to their communities and their country, even to the extent of giving their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

It is not the time to be excluding those who have been our allies, or those who have helped us in the crisis of war, those who are being persecuted for their religion, or those who through no fault of their own, have been the victims of war.

The Statue of Liberty, our “Mother of Exiles” has proclaimed:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

~Emma Lazarus

We should not allow the current political leadership of our country to stir up fear and hysteria as well as racial prejudice for political gain.

“Race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" (1) following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1944 led to the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII to internment camps in the interior of our country.

 

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Comments (7)

Sorry HR readers, I should not have published Barry's comment as his email is not valid (thanks ST for pointing that out to me. Fake comment, fake person, fake quote. Such is life in the 21st Century.

- Paul Saulnier | 4/18/17 3:51 PM

Sorry Barry, but according to Snopes and other sources, your TR quote is Fake News (fiction) which has been circulating on the internet... P.S. Nice article Ellen

- Lee DeSorgher | 4/18/17 7:27 AM

"If you want to anger a conservative, lie to him. If you want to anger a liberal, tell him the truth" T. Roosevelt

- Barry Fitzgibbons | 4/18/17 3:42 AM

Ellen, You have left out the most important word, but like most liberals (I assume from your social media postings} you chose to omit it. Illegal. Most people I know from the more conservative side of thinking are very compassionate about those you write about as long as they come here legally. You seem to not have the compassion for the family from Milford who lost their son to an illegal immigrant or the family from San Francisco who lost their daughter and many more who have suffered from our immigration problem. Your family like mine i'm sure, some where along the line came to this great country legally, but came here with honorable intentions, they assimilated, yet kept their heritage. I feel confident that our "current political leadership" is very aware of the hardships facing our legal immigrant populace. Stop trying to pull at our heartstrings with your biased views.

- Scott Heavner | 4/17/17 4:27 PM

You claim to be horrified by the political instability in the third world and your plan is to import more of this violence into the United States? Good luck with that.

- James Pennypacker | 4/17/17 12:48 PM

Thank you Ellen George for putting a human face on our current immigration issues. This is why the USA ???? exists.

- Jean Spera | 4/17/17 8:11 AM

Ellen, your article was so well written. I agree with it 100% and know from when you write as I too am an ESL teacher and have worked with students and refugees like yours. Their needs and stories are all too real. They deserve our kindness and help, not ire and prejudice. As the saying goes: "There but for the grace of God go I". I would love to meet you someday. Carol

- Carol Sussman-Ghatak | 4/17/17 7:09 AM

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