A Nation of Immigrants

August 2nd, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

This week I read a number of disparate articles and books from a variety of different sources.  As so often happens, they all turned out to be interconnected. Each one provided me with perspective on the great immigration debate raging not only in the United States, but in Europe as well.

Looking for something to read online one night, I logged onto my library account and scrolled through the “available now for download” book section. With apologies to Lidia Bastianich, I had never heard of the Italian chef, but the title of her book, My American Dream, caught my eye. The book, especially the story of her childhood, did not disappoint.

Ms. Bastianich’s family lived in an area of Italy that after World War II came under the control of Yugoslavia. As Communist rule expanded her parents made the decision to abandon their comfortable life and large extended family, and become refugees. While the mother and two children, including nine-year-old Lidia, went by train ostensibly for a short visit to relatives in Italy proper, the father escaped via a dangerous, harrowing trek, evading the regime’s police.

My American Dream describes the family’s spartan and uncomfortable life in the refugee camp in Italy, the grueling process they went through to be admitted to the United States and the years of struggle to rebuild their lives in a country whose language and culture they needed to learn. Their support system was Catholic Charities, neighbors and relatives. Ms. Bastianich’s recognition of her parents’ sacrifice so that she and her brother could have a better life and her honest portrayal of how difficult their path was is honest and moving.

With some embarrassment, I  must admit to knowing little of Josip Tito, or the Yugoslavia/Italy connection before reading that book. But with Italy on my mind, an article in the Wall Street Journal about Italian-born race-car driver Mario Andretti (whose name I did recognize) caught my eye. He spoke of the same time and place in history, when his family lived for seven years – seven years! – in a refugee camp in Tuscany.  For four of those years they  shared a room with nine families while awaiting permission to immigrate to the United States. Mr. Andretti, like Ms. Bastianich, was full of gratitude to his parents and appreciation to the country that took them in.

The third story came from the NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom magazine. It had nothing to do with immigration, but told of a recent hero, Bryan Whittle of Oklahoma City. While driving, he saw a commotion on the side of the road. Thinking that he might be able to help he pulled over and quickly realized that a gunman was shooting at restaurant patrons. Mr. Whittle pulled his own gun, shouted at the gunman to put down his weapon, and when that didn’t happen shot at the murderer, saving the lives of the fleeing customers.

When the police arrived, they initially handcuffed Mr. Whittle and another good Samaritan on the scene who also had his gun out. Obviously, as the witnesses told the story both armed citizens were quickly released and celebrated. (Funny, isn’t it, how the story didn’t make it onto the front pages of national newspapers and into headline news online – yes, I’m being sarcastic.) Mr. Whittle was appreciative for the chance to help others and completely understood that the police needed to secure the area before they could take the time to evaluate the situation and understand that he was a good guy.

This story along with those of Ms. Bastianich and Mr. Andretti,  laid the background for the fourth story I read. On the surface, the article in a liberal magazine was about illegal immigration into the United States. I wouldn’t call it investigative reporting as much as propaganda. In my opinion, it was intended to engage my emotions, provoke me to despise President Trump, confirm that anyone who votes Republican is deplorable and motivate me to get to the polls in November and vote for the Democrats.

What paragraph in the story caught my eye? A young man was quoted who was seeking asylum in the United States because of fears that he would be put to death for homosexual behavior in his own country. After illegally entering this country, he made his claim for asylum. At that point he was handcuffed and separated from the other illegal immigrants to be processed differently. What was his reaction? Gratitude for reaching the United States and potentially being given a safe haven? No – it was embarrassment  and upset at being handcuffed, and presumably the reader is meant to be outraged at that treatment.

Are you kidding me? I don’t think that we must make refugees, potential immigrants or asylum seekers suffer just because people did in the past. But we need to be extremely careful that crossing the border illegally or declaring oneself a refugee or asylum seeker isn’t a way to short-circuit the legal immigration process. Those are drastic measures, not ways to evade the system. Each country has a right to choose immigrants who will help, not destroy or drain it. Humility, gratitude, respect for the laws of the land and a desire to serve one’s neighbors seem to be valid basic requirements to increase the chances having more successful immigration stories and heroes like Bryan Whittle among us.

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30 comments

Jeff Lestz says:

Susan, Great article about immigration.My grandparents immigrated to the US from Poland and Russia. I am grateful for the sacrifices they made. I am an American who has immigrated to the UK and now have dual nationality. When I moved to the UK 15 years ago I realised that I am a guest here and it was my obligation and duty to obey the laws of this land. I have now become a citizen of the UK and although I have American citizenship too I feel very grateful to belong to two great countries.
I grew up on benefits and welfare as a child .I was orphaned at age 7 and in and out of the care system. One of the best pieces of advice my foster father gave me was ‘benefits and welfare were never meant to be an ‘alternate’ source of income. Welfare was created for people who can’t help themselves not won’t help themselves.’ I realised at a young age that I needed to become a contributor to society and not have an entitlement mentality or the world owes me something.
Thank you and Rabbi Lapin for your common sense approach to life.

Susan Lapin says:

Jeff, you have become a huge contributor to the country in which you now live. One of the frustrating things to me is that by turning the kind of help you describe into an entitlement, those who describe themselves as bleeding hearts have made it so much less possible to actually help those in need.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Jeff–
Would that even a half of one percent of America’s illegal immigrants had your drive, skills, education, and values. The entire debate would be different. Thanks for your letter. And, our approach to life….not really common sense I don’t think, but the source for us has been ancient Jewish wisdom.
Regards,
RDL

David J says:

I have been saying for decades that commonsense/intuition is not intuitive. It develops with knowledge and experience. When I was in college taking a linear circuit analysis course, the professor was explained a particular concept. One student commented, “That isn’t intuitive.” To which the professor replied, “It isn’t intuitive to you because you don’t know anything.” As I gain in knowledge and experience and have further exposure to Ancient Jewish Wisdom, many concepts seem so clear, intuitive, and commonsense now but did not in my youth.

Susan Lapin says:

I love that reply from the professor. It is so true! We hone intuition through our lives – at least we should.

Reid Corin says:

What a lovely message and story you have Jeff. Maybe our good Lord continue to blesss you.

Susan Hire says:

Thank you for this post. It’s a reminder to those of us born in the US what a great country it is and how we sometimes take our freedoms for granted.

Brian Tucker says:

Amen and Amen.
Brian

Lisa says:

To be selective is a very wise choice yet a very controversial one. Most immigrants here, legally or illegally, do not wish to be in America. They rather be in their own country but in doing so is extremely dangerous in some cases. Since America cannot be everything to everyone arriving here, the solution would be to fix the problems in those countries causing their own to flee. Which means the U.S. would need to take out another country’s government by force. Yet in doing so, we instantly become the new government, responsible for governing the country and for the security of its people until we can turn all that over to a new, stable, and functioning government. Does that sound like World War III?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Lisa–
I’m curious as to what evidence you have found that shows that most immigrants would rather be in their own countries? Also, why do you imply that keeping illegal immigrants out of America puts this country under the obligation of fixing the problems of other countries. Why is it the responsibility of a plumber in Peoria and a farmer in Fresno to pay additional taxes to cover the cost of fixing up Somalia (assuming that were even possible)? Just a bit puzzled.
Cordially
RDL

Lisa says:

American is truly a blessed country. Sometimes we Americans are arrogant in thinking, of course, immigrants want what we have here, they want to be us. Who would not love America?

There are immigrants who had so much invested in their homeland, and had to leave everything behind, such as family, career, assets, etc. These immigrants are proud of their country regardless, and if given a choice, would have stayed in their country. I come across immigrants here who are depressed because they miss their homeland and what they had there so much.

Susan Lapin says:

Lisa, that is one of the reasons that I found Lidia Bastianich’s book so moving. The generation who immigrates sacrifices a great deal. When my husband and I wrote about not moving to Israel that was one of the things we ran out of room to mention. Our friends who have chosen (rather than been forced by persecution etc.) to move to Israel, even those who are relatively fluent in the language and even though the culture is a Jewish one, are still strangers in many ways. Leaving one’s country should be a big deal – trying to make it less of a sacrifice actually ends up perversely encouraging those who shouldn’t be coming rather than those who understand the sacrifice involved.

James says:

In speaking of Yugoslavia, you remind me of an event that happened to me in Europe during the late 1970’s. I visited a men’s room and caught some graffiti on the wall at eye level.

‘Es lebe Jugoslawien!’ (Long live Yugoslavia!)
‘Ja, solange Tito noch lebt! (Yes, as long as Tito is alive!)

Words of the prophets! Tito held it all together. The implied prophecy of doom certainly happened, for shortly after strong-arm Tito passed, powder-keg Yugoslavia exploded into smithereens of nations of improbable shape and dimensions that look like the wanton gerrymandering of a Mad Hatter. And in a restaurant today I was served by a Bosniak waitress from that former Yugoslavia. Was she ever glad to be in America! And she did not strike me as a bomb-thrower, but a respectful, disciplined contributor to society. May all of our immigrants be like her! But you are right, we still need The Wall to keep out those who would harm us or shanghai our government for shadowy purposes. And I know hard-working immigrants from the Near East who had to work and wait and persevere to become Americans by the book during the 1970’s. And they, who once had to earn these privileges by sweat and blood, are incensed at the ‘free residence’ and all the ‘free stuff’ modern immigrants from the same nations receive today due to a policy of programmed political bribery.

Susan Lapin says:

James, it is a truism from ancient Jewish wisdom that if you are kind when you should be cruel you will be cruel when you should be kind. Promising all things to all people ends up delivering suffering.

Clare K says:

I got a kick out of your expression about the wanton gerrymandering of a Mad Hatter.

Rita says:

I agree with an earlier comment
What is being done to these countries where these people are fleeing from?
Something is wrong
Why doesnt the UN make demands to these countries to treat their people better
What other country on earth
Would take all the immigrants without question
I feel this situation is being used for political purposes
There is a right way to handle it If both parties would work together instead of against
And those poor children are being used as pawns in a political game
Rita

Susan Lapin says:

You are making very good points, Rita. And you are right that the children are pawns and end up suffering.

Carl Schleg says:

Something NO one is questioning-Diseases esp. TB

Susan Lapin says:

That is very true, Carl.

Darin says:

As a Christian who acknowledges his need for a Rabbi, may I refer to a New Testament teaching from Jesus? A simple “…let your Yes be Yes and your No be No, anything else is from the evil one..” is a scripture that bears following in the immigration issue.
If we intend to say Yes (or No) we should do so after considerable information is gathered, pondered and verified. To do otherwise would mean we have done an injustice and/or invited sin to slip through the cracks.
Do the majority of U.S. citizens wish to see children suffer? My answer is No, based on my observations and experiences.
Can those same children, innocent as they may be, also be used to propagate evil? My answer is Yes.
To think evil can not be in a place or person, and be cloaked as innocence is to deny the very nature of the deceptions of sin. Sin wants us to hurry, to make rash decisions, all the while, it creeps deeper into our spirit.
Not only immigration, but many government “programs” are leading our country away from the precepts upon which it was founded, and “the children” are usually the pawn for which we all feel a soft spot (spirit of mercy), thereby (as a nation) letting emotion over-rule our better judgment.
Thank You Susan, great article.

Michael Overstreet says:

To those who have a working mind the stories of legal immigration vs illegal immigration make logic sense. However those who choose to allow their emotions to dedicate their choices and behavior they see these two situations differently. There are really two distinct camps of thought. The first that recognize that a countries, borders, language and culture are important to protect with “laws” and the others that think such “laws” should not exist. Choices have consequences, and all too often the unintended consequences are not consider until they are revealed.

Susan Lapin says:

Michael, the story of unintended consequences (or ignored consequences in order to get a short-term gain) explains much of human failure.

Laurie Magers says:

I just want to thank you, Susan, for your “voice of reason.” You do have an amazing talent for presenting what I consider common sense (pretty much now uncommon!). Please keep on keepin’ on! P.S. Hi, Rabbi Lapin!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Hello Laurie–
So wonderful to hear from you. You can’t imagine how many times I have spoken of you and your loyal service to Zig Ziglar over many years.
It’s so encouraging to Susan and me to know that you read our work.
Blessings,
RDL

Harry Weisburd says:

Nation of Immigrants. ! The. OPEN BORDERS LIBERAL DEMOCRATS CRY OUT !!! Yes indeed immigrants in the past immigrants came thru ELLIS ISLAND and had to pass medical exam so they did not IMPORT some disease from jungle in Central. And South America. These immigrants worked. 8 Hour a day jobs and went to. Night school to learn English. They wanted to be American. NOT. Italian or German or French -Americans but. Americans !!!!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Harry–
Please hear my program on being honest enough to acknowledge the difference between high quality people (immigrants) and low quality people (immigrants) http://rabbidaniellapin.libsyn.com/how-are-high-quality-people-different-from-low-quality-people-does-it-matter Obviously it has nothing to do with skin color or race but everything to do with culture. For instance, immigrants with black skins who arrived recently from Africa and the Caribbean vastly outperform many blacks, whites, and browns who’ve been here for far longer.
Cordially
RDL

ilene says:

Regarding this sentence, what “story” and magazine are you referring to?: “This story along with those of Ms. Bastianich and Mr. Andretti, laid the background for the fourth story I read. On the surface, the article in a liberal magazine was about illegal immigration into the United States. I wouldn’t call it investigative reporting as much as propaganda. In my opinion, it was intended to engage my emotions, provoke me to despise President Trump, confirm that anyone who votes Republican is deplorable and motivate me to get to the polls in November and vote for the Democrats.”

Susan Lapin says:

Ilene, the reason I didn’t name the magazine or link to the story is that I had discarded it after reading and did not have time to search for it online. So, I was going on my memory rather than having it in front of me. I have read enough in that magazine to feel that my statement of their bias was correct. That is why I said, “In my opinion.”

ilene says:

Hi Susan,

Thanks for explaining. Do you remember the magazine?

Ilene

Susan Lapin says:

As I said, Ilene, without it in front of me I don’t want to name any names. Too many times, as we all experience, our memories are positive about something, but we are wrong.

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