Gerald (Jerry) Zezas

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What do immigrants really want?

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I’ve recently been thinking about what it would take for me to leave my country to go somewhere else. I’ve wondered what it would take for me to give up everything I own, everyone I know, my family, the familiarity I have with my surroundings, etc.

It would be a very difficult thing for me to do, even though I have the privilege of belonging to a race that will likely be welcomed in most places in the world. Even though I have the privilege of the means to drive or fly there. To come in the front door. To not be rejected out-of-hand due to my skin color. To not be assumed to be entering that country for the sake of taking something from those who were born there.

With all that going for me, I’m still here. Not because I think that America is the only place in the world in which I could live peacefully. It isn’t. Not because America is the only democracy in the world. It isn’t. Not because America is the safest country in the world. Or has the best health care. Or the longest life-span. Or the most honest politicians. It isn’t and it’s not. I stay here because this is my home.

Now, imagine if you take away all the privileges I’ve listed above. The privilege to be welcomed. The means to enter legally, through the front door. The privilege that assumes that I have something to offer the new country.

Imagine if, prior to leaving, I know that I will be rejected for my skin color, assumed to be stealing someone’s job. Imagine if I already know that I’ve got to walk, along with my family, through miles of deserts with little food or water. Knowing that after traveling for days in the hot sun that I might be caught and sent back. Knowing that I, or my family, could die trying.

And yet, I still came.

If some of us would try to imagine the love that these people must have for what we, in America, offer. Imagine what courage it takes for someone to make that journey, knowing that he might be sent back. Or, even if he makes it, knowing that he will be hiding from the law, hated for his nationality, ridiculed as lazy and only wanting something for nothing, like welfare or food stamps.

How many natural-born Americans would go to those extremes to be Americans? Immigrants, both legal and illegal, apparently love America so much that rather than ridicule them, we should be throwing them lifelines when they wash up on shore. Or border patrols should be searching for them to help them cross, rather than turn them away. We should have provisions for them to come and do the jobs that Americans have proven time and again that they don’t want to do, and thank them for it.

If you think about how much you must want to be in a country for you to risk your future at best, or your life at worst, then you understand that many of these immigrants are the ultimate American patriots-and we should be welcoming them.

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1 Comment

  1. Bill Cadiz says:

    Wow! How does an immigrant feel about immigration? How much time you got? First of all, every damn immigrant has a different story. We come from different circumstances, for various reasons, with different expectations, intentions, motivations, and all these reasons change shape and intensity with the slightest twist or vibration of just about anything. One thing I think all of us have in common is simple survival. I don’t know of any fellow immigrant who moved here who wasn’t absurdly optimistic, who didn’t sincerely believe that the final destination was worth the trouble and craziness of leaving a known entity, family, friends, language, culture, job, for a vague promise of a better life, that things were going to be better than life back home. Few of us understood what America had to offer, let alone the complexities of politics or history. It’s an absolute fiction for some to claim that we came for the freebies, or to steal jobs. We knew we had to work and that a nice life of luxury might be a distant reward, after every debt and obligation was paid in full, plus some. We had no complaint about this; that was plain to us up front that it was part of the deal. My first job was with a Caterpillar dealer in Miami. True story; we flew into Miami on a Panam 707 and as we were on final we flew right over a big Cat sign. Next day I showed up and said “Yes!” when they asked if I would accept $1.60 an hour. I had worked for a Cat dealer in the West Indies and knew something about the brand. That was in 1964. By 1970 Mary and I had our own business in the Keys, hiring American mechanics, office and parts personnel. I always wonder how many Keys commercial fishermen would have stayed home with broken engines if I had chosen not to come, how many would have failed, fired all the help and just given up. The bullshit about immigration is appalling, it’s misinformed if not plain dumb and it’s detrimental to the country. Enough! Unless you’re a Native American your anti-immigrant views are not worth even polite comment.

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