Thursday, November 13, 2008

thoughts on immigration

Last night Bil and I watched the movie The Visitor, which I recommend. The movie is about a man who has lost his wife and really isn't living his life anymore. He goes to New York for a conference and discovers that there is a couple living in his apartment there. He lives in Connecticut, but keeps an apartment in the city, and apparently some unknown man has been illegally renting out the man's apartment and collecting the money for himself. The couple are both illegal immigrants and have nowhere to go, so the man allows them to stay. The rest of the movie is about his relationship with them and also deals with immigration issues. I don't want to give the entire plot away; it is a really good movie.


What I like the most about it is that it sheds some light on illegal immigrants and their plight. With all the election hoopla, I received a lot of anti-immigration emails from family and friends, which I read with mixed feelings. I can see that it might be a good thing to have restrictions on immigration, but on the other hand, I sympathize with the people who come here looking for a better life. First off, my own grandfather came here illegally back in the 1940s from Austria. He got into some trouble in Europe (apparently, he was a bit of a hothead) and he fled to America. He lived here for a few years and then met my grandmother. After he married her, he left the States and reentered through Canada, this time legally because he was married. Those emails lambasting illegal immigrants would definitely have applied to my grandfather, and if he had never come here, would I even exist now?

Also, I taught English as a Second Language for over three years in Chicago and I got to know so many wonderful people who had come to the States, some legally and other illegally. While teaching these adults, they shared a lot of personal information with me. Some of them had advanced degrees in their countries, but were working here in factories or as maids. They didn't complain, though. They felt lucky to have even these menial jobs because they had so few opportunities to make a living in their countries. Most of the students worked 12 or more hours a day so that they could earn enough to send money home to their families. Many had spouses and children here, but still sent money home--it was very difficult for them to make ends meet. Also, they were exhausted; after working grueling hours, they then came to school to learn English. After spending a bit of time with their children, they had just enough time to maybe get 4 hours of sleep.

I will never forget these students of mine: Joel, Jose, Juan, Margarita, Maria, Gabriella, all of whom were so grateful for the opportunity to learn English and to live here. After meeting them, I can never look at immigration issues the same way again. I know I don't know all the political and socio-economic issues involved, but I do know that these students of mine came here because they were desperate. Desperate for a chance at doing more than just surviving. Desperate to help their families. Some of them, desperate to live somewhere where they would have freedom.

We are really lucky, those of us who live in countries where we have freedom and the opportunity to earn a living and take care of ourselves and our families. But, what did we do differently than those students of mine? We just got lucky and it seems unfair to me that because they were born somewhere else, they don't get the chances we do.

The thing I liked most about this movis is it shows a more personal side to immigration. It is pretty one-sided; there is no question where the director stands on the issues, but I would still recommend the movie.

7 comments:

Amy Jane said...

Patty,

That was an interesting post. I do agree with you on many points. It IS unfair that some people are lucky enough to be born in America and some are not, and I do believe that people should have the chance to immigrate here LEGALLY. The problem I have with illegal immigration is that they come here to have the same chances we have, but then they don't pay taxes, Social Security, etc., as we have to, and WE end up paying their way. That is unfair, too! If people want the benefits of America, they need to pay the price, too. Wouldn't you agree? I swear I'm not attacking you - just trying to have intelligent discourse. :)

Congratulations again, BTW!!!

Patty O. said...

Amy,

I do agree with you, definitely. That's why to me it is such a tricky issue. There is so much to consider when it comes to immigration, though, I do have to point out that illegal immigrants don't get many of the chances we do. They can't get a social security number, which greatly reduces their employment opportunities. They can't get welfare, as far as I know, although I do think they can get assistance for their children....

It's just such a complicated issue to me. I do know I am grateful to have been born here!
Patty

Quirky Mom said...

My main comments are below, but before I forget, I wanted to say: tag, you're it! Come see at my blog.

Now on with what I wanted to say about your post...

Ohhh, I want to see the movie!

I pretty much agree with everything you just said. I worked at a Latino research center (as the only white person, and the only non-Spanish speaker... that was fun!) for a couple of years, and I gained so much insight.

I also learned that a lot of the things people think they know about immigration are wrong. First, a lot of undocumented workers do pay taxes. And they certainly do pay sales tax, which is the most regressive tax we have. Second, even when undocumented workers are eligible for services, they often do not seek them out of fear of deportation. (I've actually collected data on stuff like this. I'm not making it up.)

mrsbear said...

My grandparents came here legally from Cuba 40 years ago. My grandfather worked 18 hour days at a meat packing plant just to be able to buy the house they now live in. I think the question of immigration is a tricky one. Especially when people make blanket judgments. I wish it were possible to investigate each case on an individual basis. I don't know what the answers are really. I feel bad for them too. They had a story on PBS about a renowned surgeon who immigrated illegally from Mexico 30 years ago, who has made great strides in cancer research. How to decide who gets those opportunities is a daunting task?

klbosak@bellsouth.net said...

OMG- I have no idea how I clicked and ended up here, but I laughed out loud at your blog. My munchkin is the poster child for sensory issues and we're awfully close on completly #2, she's 4. We also just got a puppy, so my husband is ready to run away due to the poop issues. It gets easier, though. I never thought my kid would go for stickers as in incentive.

Shellie said...

You are a person after my own heart. I totally agree with you on this one. And it is true that most of them are paying taxes and are denied many benefits. It makes me sad how many of them are living far away from their families just to keep them alive. And it makes me sad how callous and uncaring many people are as to their plight. There just has to be a better way to handle this issue.

K- floortime lite mama said...

you are aperson after my own heart