Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is Immigration Obsolete? or Revolution of the States!

I first started noticing it in the late 1970s/early 1980s. One day, without fan fare or much comment, a grown woman began delivering the newspaper in my home-neighborhood. It was the beginning of the trend that saw adults, mostly single mothers and immigrants, willingly and eagerly filling the jobs that had traditionally been filled by American teenagers, American college kids, and able-bodied young American men & women who for whatever reason chose to labor manually and outdoors.
The woman was a fair-haired, non-accented, fair-skinned blond, most likely not an immigrant. Her four or so young sons swarmed across my neighborhood's well-manicured lawns and pristine gardens, loudly and raucously helping their mom deliver papers, and support the family. The presence of these young, but non-immigrant hoodlums in my fair, well-located neighborhood ruffled the feathers of many of the stoic housewives. There were rumblings about the "fat blond" being one of those single mothers of questionable moral fiber.
Having years before ventured out into the more intriguing and colorful neighborhoods of my hometown, blondie and her thundering hoard of brats came as no surprise to me. I was darkly amused by the distress of the housewives, rather enjoying the spectacle of "the wrong side of the tracks" clashing with not simply "the right side of the tracks," but "south of the highway" and "waterfront" to boot!
Little did I know it, but having delivered penny savers a few years earlier with my best friend, I was about to become a relic. My girlfriend and I, who held the route because she was among another dying breed, kids who feel obligated to help support the family, seemingly were among the last kids on Long Island to hold a coveted paper route.
The times they were a changin', and the needy, uneducated, immigrant adults were moving in on the territory of kid's/young adults jobs.
And as time marched on and prosperity changed our world, the trend continued, erupting all over the landscape of my home-Island and the rest of American Suburbia. The lion's share of "job-stealers" quickly became immigrants. Where I lived as a young wife/mother/adult, on the east end of Long Island, the immigrants were primarily Vietnamese and Latino.
These folks sucked up the jobs that traditionally had gone to students in the summer with lightning speed - landscape assistants, gardeners, house cleaners (a job I held all throughout my high school/college years), bus boys, prep cooks, errand-runners, beach cleaners, the list goes on and on.
And perhaps because the east end is more liberal, "live and let live," artsy-fartsy than the rest of Long Island, many of the immigrants flourished and became the masters of their own businesses. The man who cut our lawn was a well-spoken (still accented, but he learned English), family-oriented, reliable entrepreneur who immigrated from Vietnam.
But for every immigrant who realized the American Dream of business and home ownership, I'll surmise that there were 10 more milling around in the parking lot of Southampton's 7/11, (my Town of East Hampton didn't allow convenience and fast-food establishments!) blighting the landscape and pissing off the good tax-paying citizens. And I'm sorry, those folks were a big oozing sore on what others had worked so hard to build, fund and enjoy. Where is it written that a new wave of immigrants has the right to screw over all the previous waves? And we're all immigrants.
Before my parents moved "south of the highway" my family lived in a more-northern neighborhood, in the same town, that began as farm land. The chief farmer - a Dutch immigrant - sold my parents his house. Irish immigrants established their homes and a large horticultural nursery behind the neighborhood. Italian immigrants, all related in some respect, built their neat ranch houses with the plastic covered, museum-quality first floors and living quarters in the basement in a cluster down the road. The Nieves, with their two lovely, college student daughters neatly, proudly and quietly lived across the street. As did the Sepulvedas, who built their high-ranch when I was about 9 and were wonderful neighbors. I played with their son Emile. I got off the bus and went to their house after school during the hour or so that my teacher-father's and evening shift nurse-mother's work schedules crossed.
Mrs. Sepulveda eagerly and graciously taught me how to cook Latino style. For one multi-cultural day at school, sick and tired of the comparatively bland Irish, I enlisted Mrs. Sepulveda's guidance, whipping up Latino food with flare. She let me wear her brightly-colored and decorated, beautifully swirling, festive dancing skirt.
There were the Rodriguez's whose daughter I played with, and the Mercados. The Mercados were trouble causers, but every neighborhood has them.
The point I'm making is I'm no stranger to diversity. But occasionally witnessing and often hearing reports of the Southampton 7/11 immigrants peeing in the parking lot in broad day light and remaining if they weren't chosen by a work crew and getting drunk in public, well that was more than a bit much. And if you're a woman, or even a young girl (sick!), try to walk by a group of Latino workers without feeling that you've been verbally raped. Many immigrants before these men, my grandparents and great grandparents among them, learned to adapt to American society, traditions and mores. These brazen men never attempted to adapt. They didn't see Americans regularly peeing in parking lots, getting drunk in the 7/11 parking lot during week days, or verbally raping women.
I believe that everyone deserves a fighting chance. Sincerely, I do. I'm not a privileged brat. My Dad died young, before I was out of High School. Although he worked hard and left our family comfortably, my mother was careless and blew and lost everything - including the house south of the highway, within 15 years of his death. She doted on one child and acted as though he was her only financial responsibility. She blew my dad's sweat and tears on buying her one child cars, motorcycles, supporting his everyday needs and wants, at least 2 businesses - you get the picture. No one paid for my college or bought me a car. No one (but me and my husband) paid for my wedding. No one ever left me money. I was kicked out of my mother's house because her "only child" resented that I had a boyfriend (twisted) when I was going to college (getting there by bus) with a broken foot and working the 11 p.m to 7 a.m. shift at my hometown's 7/11.
My husband's financial history is the same as mine. Yet we managed to own two houses and make a pretty nice life in a visually beautiful and socially safe location for our kids.
The point I'm making here is I'm not a privileged snob. I've worked for everything I've ever had. I would likely dissolve into a puddle of pudding if someone gave me a hand in any substantial way, financially speaking.
My point is also that once my kids were grown and out seeking jobs, they had to compete with illegal immigrants. Only two generations after my grandparents, the American landscape has changed drastically, with hard-working parents seeing their hard-working offspring unable to secure summer jobs, because perhaps immigration has become obsolete.
And I won't even get started on the manual-labor friendly and/or jobless-because-of-the- economy adults who can't get jobs because of illegals.
Enter the state of Arizona, present day America. I just can't fathom that OUR Justice Department, with OUR President's blessing is suing a state for simply cleaning up its own, although not self-inflicted, problem. The waves of immigrants past whose children and grandchildren have toiled to build and fund the state of Arizona deserve protection from lawbreaking-criminals who cross OUR boarders illegally. It's that simple. Once again, OUR tax money is being used against us. The power and the money WE GIVE builds OUR GOVERNMENT. The state of Arizona is doing what the federal government couldn't and/or wouldn't - the state of Arizona is protecting and serving its AMERICAN CITIZENS.
And I say "hurray!" for Virginia's Prince William Board of County Supervisor's Chairman Corey Stewart. Prince William County already boasts strict immigration law, with officers required to check the immigration status of suspects in custody. Mr. Stewart wants to enact that law state-wide, and encourages other states and municipalities to follow suite. He reasons that if enough state governments stand up for the rights of AMERICAN CITIZENS, the federal government will be too busy trying to reign governments in to focus primarily on suing Arizona.
Sadly, times, circumstances and needs change.
It's time for the states to exercise their power and sovereignty and to start a lawful revolution.
I am the granddaughter of immigrants. I know that many Americans shunned and were sickened by my grandparent's presence. But that was a different time. They were creating jobs and opportunities, not stealing them. They were becoming citizens legally, not deliberately engaging in criminal activity. They were staying in America till death did they part, not milking our country for all she's worth and blowing town, so to speak.
I turned to the sonnet, "The New Colossus," as I considered that immigration might indeed be obsolete. Better known as the poem engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, "The New Colossus" was written in 1883 by 34-year-old Emma Lazarus. Ms. Lazarus was a native New Yorker, the descendant of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who settled in New York in Colonial times. She lived and wrote the sonnet in a time when the term "Zionist" had yet to be created. She believed in an independent Jewish nation, but there was no word yet to describe her convictions.
In the sonnet, Ms. Lazarus writes of the statue standing at a harbor that "twin-cities frame." She's referring to Manhattan and Brooklyn, at the time, still separate cities.
Ms. Lazarus was a writer who caught the attention of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The two corresponded until his death.
She created word phrases that I doubt any 34-year-old today would be moved to or able to create. Her writing style is beautiful, but ancient.
She died shortly after returning from a trip to Europe of what is guessed to have been lymphoma. An educated woman, living in one of the world's shining cities, corresponding with a literary genius of the time, yet her cause of death is hypothesized about, but unknown.
That's because Ms. Lazarus, pictured in a neck-high, long,black dress, hair conservatively swept up behind her head, is of a different time and place. A different America where far fewer people took advantage of the bounty and broke laws and behaved disgustingly.
A younger, more fluid America, still able to bend under great weight and responsibility without breaking. Our America is not the young, unbreakable America. Our America is older and used up by the greedy and calloused.
I leave you with Ms. Lazarus's' words for Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's creation, "Liberty Enlightening the World," a gift from the people of France to the people of America more than 120 years ago, memorializing the two country's great friendship forged during the American Revolution.
"The New Colossus," a sonnet by Emma Lazarus, 1883
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beckoning hand glows world-wide welcome;
Her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
So beautiful, but sadly, no longer applicable, I think.
Is immigration obsolete? What do you think?
Be well & happy. Get behind the Revolution of the States!
I nearly forgot to address the related rantings of the right-wing talk-radio posse.
Recently, I heard a couple of the right-wing radio heads going on about President Obama stating in a speech that the American people raised funds for the Statue of Liberty. Naturally, and wrongly, the radio heads were bashing Obama for rewriting history. Sorry radio head right-wingers, Mr. Obama was correct. The American people agreed to raise funds to build the statue's pedestal, as the French citizens raised funds for and made a gift of the statue itself. In fact, the above sonnet was specifically written to be auctioned off at a fund-raising event for the pedestal.
Maybe you wildly ravenous right-wingers would earn some credibility with the truly knowledgeable if you knew what the heck you were talking about. But I suppose it behooves you to preach lies to an uninformed audience. I know you are simply masking your racist tendencies with your rants!

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