We are all immigrantsGabriel Fraire / November 20, 2015
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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and 29 mostly Republican state governors are opposing efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States. This is an obvious pandering to the fear mongering that exists in the current context of immigration discussions. Does the governor not know that refugees from Syria have been in line to come to the United States way before any terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, France? And that these refugees have been intensely scrutinized. Does he not realize that it is this country’s foreign policies that helped create all these refugees? Do we not have some responsibility to help them? McCrory’s xenophobia and short-sightedness serves only one purpose- to advance a political agenda which includes scaring people into neglecting our humanitarian obligation.
In America, throughout our history, there has never been a time when immigrants were not important, were not essential, and were not a hotbed issue of controversy. Yet, this is a country comprised entirely of immigrants. Even the Native Americans, who have the closest real claim to being Native to this country, were originally immigrants across the Bering Land Bridge many centuries ago.
My family came from Mexico during the Pancho Villa era revolution of the early 1900’s. Most of them knew nothing of politics or revolution but they all knew a lot about war and destruction. My grandmother told me that when men with guns rode into her village the girls would hide. It did not matter if the men were government “Federalies” or “Revolutionaries.” If caught the women would be abused. It is sad and scary but, unfortunately, continues even today. Under the guise of freedom or revolution, warriors are abusing women and children right now. How horrible that must be to live under such constant threat.
When my great grandfather had the opportunity to send my grandmother to “El Norte”, the United States, he did so knowing they may never meet again. It wasn’t what he wanted. It wasn’t what she wanted. It was what was necessary to survive. And she did, and her children achieved and her grandchildren thrived.
People do not leave their homeland easily, often they are forced. Whether it was Nazis, Revolutionaries, Communists, Capitalists, ISIS or bandits, many immigrants don’t simply leave their homeland, they flee their homeland. It is seldom a choice. It is too often a necessity. And, they don’t come to America expecting a “free lunch” or government hand-outs. They come knowing they will work very hard with the only hope being that their offspring might have a better life. Who can fault that, who can object to a parent wanting more for their children?
As long as Western Europeans have been on this continent they have objected to the next wave of immigration whether the immigrants were Irish, Italian, Asian, African, or more recently from Latin America. It has always been the case and, unfortunately, it may always be the case. Regardless of one’s background the struggles are similar, the triumphs are glories, and the perseverance has to be admired.
Regardless of one’s skin color or national origin we are all the same. We all want food, shelter and love. Regardless of what brought our families here we are all here now. And, we need to respect and should admire the effort and struggle that brought our forefathers to this land.
We are all immigrants. We need to remember this and we need to celebrate this.
Gabriel Fraire has been a writer more than 40 years. Parts of this article have appeared in the form of a forward for the book “Healdsburg Immigrants,” written by Shonnie Brown and available through her Web site: sonomalifestories.com.