Friday, October 06, 2006

Immigration in Charlotte

I was one of several people to give a talk last night at the Levine Museum of the New South downtown about immigration to Charlotte. I was disappointed to see no press coverage in the Charlotte Observer, because the program really focused on breaking stereotypes (there was Spanish language press there, so hopefully it gets some attention in the Latino community). In fact, one of the audience members asked how we can get this sort of information out to the general public, when all we hear about is the negative side. I could only answer that we keep doing events, writing newspaper articles, going on radio, etc. until it begins to sink in.

The evening ended with the personal stories of three immigrants who had come to Alan Gordon (the moderator and head of the mayor’s immigration commission, who is also an immigration lawyer) for help. They were from Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia, and El Salvador. Everyone was riveted with their stories, which included death threats, relatives being killed, and illegal crossing over the U.S.-Mexico border (all are now U.S. citizens).

What I found so poignant was the fact that all three professed great love of the United States and pride in being a citizen. The pride, however, was based not on stomping on other countries, being the strongest, or other sources of “patriotism” that unfortunately we see so much, but rather it was far more simple. The pride came from a deep love of opportunity, liberty, and hope. Sometimes talking about such values seems trite, but coming from recent immigrants it was really powerful. It made me wish more native U.S. citizens could understand patriotism in those terms rather than as a projection of U.S. power abroad.

Instead, we get people like a Republican developer in South Carolina who is running for Congress, using illegal immigration as his key issue. It’s now reported that he works as hard as other developers to get as many illegal immigrant workers as possible, by not forcing his contractors to verify the status of their workers. Sometimes the hypocrisy is tough to stomach.


Anonymous,  3:46 PM  

Very good story. Our country was built and settled by immigrants. It boggles my mind that we have politicians who are against welcoming those people who want to come and build our country further. Most immigrants come to the United States for a better opportunity, and in the course of pursuing their own opportunities, they become productive members of American society and help to grow the economy further. This is why people still want to come to the USA - it is NOT because we can go obliterate Afghanistan or Grenada.

Anyone who is against immigration needs to look at their own personal family tree and realize that with very few exceptions we are all immigrants.

Greg Weeks 4:35 PM  

I couldn't agree more--we even welcome you crazy Greeks.

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