Changing perspectives on immigration

Changing perspectives on immigration

A friend from Ramsey (NJ), Tom Franklin, is a professor at Montclair State University. He posted two photos on Instagram last week of each of his grandparents and in the caption told their stories of coming to the United States as immigrants, of his fond memories of them, and the positive impact they made on his life and American life. From this I learned that with immigration at the forefront of national conversation, students at Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media were launching a comprehensive transmedia project about the immigrant experience this week. He posted this article about it: How Montclair State University students used social media and collaboration to tell immigration stories.

#MyImmigrationStoryIs

I shared my story. Not my parents’, grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ story, but mine. I am white. I don’t speak with an accent (although some outside Northern New Jersey might disagree). I don’t appear to be “foreign” in any way. Yet, I am an immigrant. I was born in Ireland, came here when I was 2 years old and became a citizen when I was 5.

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There are very few Americans (only about 2% of the population) that claim to be Native American/Alaskan. That means that the rest of us – or 98% of Americans – came from or are descendants of someone who came from someplace else. While this county has a long history of immigration, it also has a history of discriminating against immigrants. My (adoptive) grandparents were met with anti-Irish sentiment when they immigrated from Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Last year, a Detroit man created the “No Irish Pub” and refused to serve anyone if they were Irish or simply wearing green to celebrate the holiday. The experiment showed “Americans” what it was like to feel the effects of discrimination based on ethnicity that seems so far removed from the Irish today. Read about it and watch the video documenting it here.

Through the first half of American history “illegal immigration” didn’t exist because there were no immigration laws to break. The first immigration law in 1882 – rooted in fear and discrimination – banned Chinese immigrants.

“In 1921, the U.S. passed the Emergency Quota Act, which was designed to prevent a stream of Jews fleeing persecution from immigrating to the United States. For the first time in our history, we put caps on the number of people who could immigrate. And we developed a formula that put a quota on how many people from any country could come to the U.S. based on how many people from that country already lived here: three percent. It gave Western Europeans, who were predominately white, a distinct advantage when attempting to immigrate here.” (Stribley, R. “The Invention of Illegal Immigration,” March 2019. Medium)

What we are seeing today is no different. Fear mongering politicians use an “invasion” metaphor when no such thing is taking place. While the current administration is looking to restrict immigration at our southern border, I read an article in the New York Times last week about how they are also increasing the number of visas that can be issued for immigrant workers. Go figure.

My father’s family immigrated from Ireland to the South Bronx. They lived on 146th Street between Wilson and Brook in what is now known as Mott Haven. It’s in the poorest congressional district in the United States. When I was a kid, my father didn’t go back to the old neighborhood except for the occasional Yankees game. He was disappointed in the way the place had “changed.”

When I worked for a health and human services agency in New York City a decade ago, I had the opportunity to spend time in my dad’s old Irish neighborhood of the 1920s and 30s. Now it was predominately African. And in working there with the staff of our Early Head Start program, I realized that the neighborhood hadn’t changed as much as he thought it did. It was inhabited now, as it was then, by poor, working, immigrant families, trying to make it on their first stop in a new world. It always has and always will be that way.

 

The April Challenge

The April Challenge

Last week was spring break, so my daughter was home with me. It was also spring break for the elementary schools around here, so I took the week off from my Let Me Run job as well. I know that this phase of our lives will be coming to a close quicker than I care to think about. It’s therefore important that I make the most of our time together. Read more

How not to be a victim of ageism

How not to be a victim of ageism

There was a workshop I attended this week entitled, “Ageism and Feeling Invisible.” The organization hosting the event was one of the networking groups I joined since arriving in Chicago. This group is specifically for women over 50.

This subject was particularly interesting to me because I have felt as I look for jobs here (corporate coaching or consulting with non-profits), it feels like my age is working against me. There was a time in my career not long ago that I had no trouble working with a recruiter, being recommended for numerous jobs, and being offered a position after every interview. Now it seems, just getting the interview has become a major challenge – I have even been dismissed by recruiters for fundraising jobs! Read more

Running, dopamine, and surviving winter

Running, dopamine, and surviving winter

March was the month we were all supposed to finally commit to our New Year’s resolutions. How are you doing with that? I will be the first to admit, not so well. I will actually admit to running just a little over 2 miles in the entire past month. What’s going on? Read more

On becoming an “Active Senior”

On becoming an “Active Senior”

Several years ago I was looking though the YMCA brochure that had come in the mail. After seeing all the wonderful activities in a section titled “active seniors” I said to myself, but out-loud, “I want to be an active senior.” My husband who had been in ear-shot acted like it was the funniest thing I ever said. I was still a few years shy of 50. Read more