We Are All Immigrants

Our President’s executive order suspending refugee resettlement and issuing a travel ban and entry into US of people from 7 predominately Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen – was deeply unsettling and a violation of core American values.

The United States of America was founded by people who fled their own homelands in pursuit of religious freedom and economic opportunity.

Research your own ancestry. You may be surprised to discover the genetic origins of « skeletons » in your closet. With the exception of the Native Americans, we all came from elsewhere or worse yet were stripped from our homelands and sold into slavery. Don’t believe me. Check the records of genealogy registries like Ancestry.com. Different nationalities and ethnicities have been mixed for generations.

We all share a history of sacrifices. In 1902 my Norwegian great grandmother, Eugenie and her young daughter, set sail for America to join my great grandfather, Johan Rosholt, who arrived earlier. A fortnight after landing on Ellis Island, her daughter succumbed to illness. Three months later Eugenie died giving birth to my grandma, Martha. Johan sunk into deep depression; Martha became a ward of the state, and at the age of four was adopted by a Norwegian couple. Years later, Martha married Gustav Olson, another Norwegian emigrant, who died at age 47. He left behind my grandma, two sons and a daughter, my mom.

On my paternal side, the McKinzie lineage can be traced back to Scotland to the Mackenzie Clan of Kintail. In 1655 Collin McKenzie settled in Maryland as one America’s first founding families.

My paternal grandfather, son of a tenet farmer, coached into his 80s contributing his salary to help others receive the college education he so greatly valued. Every step of his long career, he defended human rights as a staunch Republican supporter of Ronald Reagan, his former football player and lifelong friend. My grandmother never complained about her inauspicious debut or hard life, instead she spread good cheer with a welcoming smile and twinkling blue eyes.

The survival spirit of my ancestors flows through my veins. Like for so many Americans, the Ellis Island immigrant story remains etched in my family history, like a badge of courage.

In the past, emigrants hailed from predominately white European countries. Our present day refugees come from farther south nearer the equator line where due to climate skin colors can be darker.

Our stories as descendants of refugees, immigrants and slaves are one’s of perseverance and resiliency surviving the hardships of poverty and surmounting the evils of bondage.

Our people were not born on easy street with silver spoons in their mouth. The European, Asian and African immigrants, refugees and former slaves served in the military, paid taxes, and honored our flag. They worked hard at low paying jobs laying roads, planting fields and building schools. They suffered human losses greater than we can imagine.

Before we mandate measures with such far-reaching consequences as travel bans, we must be sure to have our « alternate facts » straight too.

« The list of countries banned makes no sense, » said Hasni Abidi, a Swiss specialist of the Arab world. According to the New-York based Soufan Group, ISIS recruits primarily from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, and Jordan, countries not listed in the ban and with close ties to the US for most of them.

Chechen brothers committed the Boston Marathon attack, a man of Afghan origin (born in USA) committed the Orlando shoot out, and Pakistanis opened fire in San Bernardino.

Within days of taking office, in a violation of our most fundamental rights on which our country was founded, our President’s nationalistic rhetoric and actions have already alarmed and estranged our strongest allies.

Before we go imposing orders, building walls, and creating more barriers, keep in mind our nation was founded on the principals of religious freedom and built on the backs of « foreigners » slaves, refugees and immigrants.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtBZvl7dIu4[/embedyt]

Posted in inspiration.

27 Comments

  1. YES! my fellow immigrant friend, I don’t understand why people around the world don’t ‘get’ this. Look at us all across the globe – we are a veritable melting pot of beautiful ancestry, colour and creed. Race is a manmade invention for Caucasians to use as a dividing tool and to enhance their supremacy. I loved the examples you gave of why all this is so illogical. A great read once again – thanks dear Pat. Love from your Scottish-Irish-Italian-English friend who was born in the UK and is a legal ‘immigrant’ in Australia ???????? xx

    • Oh Rach, my dear beautiful blond, blue-eyed multi cultural friend your message is beautiful. If only we could all share your vision, the world would be a better place. Continue to inspire those around you with your energy, insight and tolerance.

  2. Beautifully-said thoughts on on how we all feel, Pat. Most of us don’t have to look very far to retrieve our own immigrant story. My paternal grandfather, Alfredo DiCerbo, left Italy with his older brother, Vincenzo, when he was 18 in search of a better life in America. I can’t even imagine the courage it took to venture away and the heartache it caused. I feel for the families of today who spent years preparing and were turned away last week by the stroke of a pen from a man who keeps violating everything we stand for and all within two weeks. God help us!

    • I have been stopped at the border and felt only momentarily a fleeting sense of what these people must endure, the panic and dread of being so close to reaching their dream and for many safety, only to be turned away at the door. As Barb commented the vetting process is already very thorough. His sweeping, seemingly impulsive actions and decisions have far reaching consequences that impact hundred of thousands of lives. I hope that our system of checks and balances can reign him in.

  3. Well-written, Pat. It is so difficult to watch what is happening here in the U.S. Thanks for adding the part about the “alternative facts.” The Week Magazine has a front cover basically depicting Trump and Kellyanne Conway living an alternative reality to what most Americans are. But there is hope with the recent Federal judge putting a temporary restraining order on the travel ban. May I suggest your readers also look up CNN’s coverage of what Trump’s friend, Howard Stern had to say on his own show two days ago. Things are messed up but the American people are standing up for what is right and that makes me very proud.

    • You always find a way to see the positive even during the tough times, so I will try to focus on the people standing up for what is right. Thank you for adding your insights as a global traveler and expat specialist. Your point of view is so valuable.

  4. I refuse to be drawn into a political shouting match — we’ve seen enough of that to gag us for a lifetime! Yes, we’re all immigrants; however, our forebears didn’t come over here with hatred in their hearts and malice in their intent. They were seeking a new life for themselves and their children. They wanted to work, to fit in, to *become* American. Can we really say that of every person who immigrates today? I don’t think so. That’s why a bit of vetting seems appropriate to me. I feel sorry for those with noble intents, whose countrymen are rabble-rousers; they’re the ones who suffer most in this climate. Now, don’t hate me for playing devil’s advocate, okay?!

    • It’s good to see both sides. Just remember, these would-be immigrants ARE getting and have always gone through a vetting process. This is nothing new.

    • Refugee applications take 18-24 months of vetting, it is a 20 step process. Immigrants applying to live legally in the U.S. must have a sponsor. There are different categories of visas, the U.S. limits the numbers that come in by countries and also by category. It can take 5-10 years to get a visa.

      • Thanks for adding this clarification. I knew the vetting process was difficult but I had no idea how difficult. On the flip side of the coin, I do know how challenging it is to be granted residency status in Europe. Right now the European borders are fairly open between members of Schengen Accord, but with Brexit and political right wing parties gaining momentum in many countries that all could change.

    • Playing the devil’s advocate is always good because it allows one to look at both sides of an issue, so thanks for weighing in. And right now open dialogue between both parties is imperative. It sounds like the vetting process is already quite grueling. Still I feel those with noble intent far outweigh those with potential malice. Our nation has been founded on the principle of giving people an opportunity.

  5. This issue is so upsetting, Pat, and you expressed my feelings perfectly. Thank you.

  6. This was a wonderful explanation of what we all should know.
    My family somehow came over legally but I know many who didn’t–so nobody can say they were vetted, and mine was “vetted” at Ellis Island–no obvious diseases.
    America should be the land of last resort—as we watched the commercials last night, listened to the music, and watched the game the diversity should have shown through–and the majesty of that. Thanks for putting in the Bud commercial. It was my favorite.

    • Thank for adding your thoughts. Even though I would have had to stay up all night to see the superbowl in Switzerland, I enjoyed watching the “game” replays of which the commercials supporting America’s diversity were my favorite highlights.

  7. Pat: Thanks for sharing the stories of your immigrant ancestors from Norway and Scotland. My ancestors immigrated to the US from England, Scotland, Denmark, France and Prussia. Everyone but the Native Americans are descendants of immigrants. It’s just incredible that the value of diversity isn’t more broadly embraced.

    • The beauty in America the beautiful is in our diversity and we should be celebrating, not stifling, those differences. We fear most what which we don’t understand. Rather than clinging to old stereotypes and prejudices, we each need to embrace all of our neighbors just as you suggested.

  8. Hi Pat, I couldn’t agree more. We’ve given a lunatic the keys to the palace. I can only the amount of damage that will be done over the next 4 years. We’re all from somewhere else.

    • Scary times for sure Rena. We need to stand together and say STOP. This is not right. Thank you for all you are doing in your own life to stand up for injustice.

  9. Thanks Pat,
    Its nice to know that I am not alone in a world of alternative facts.

  10. My family were immigrants from Russia and Poland. I hate what’s happening in our country with the fear and hatred of people who are suffering and enduring horrendous conditions. The vetting in our country is already severe.My boyfriend’s daughter and her fiance, who is a white man from England, had to spend 2 years apart before they were allowed to be together even though they were married. Immigrants from the Middle East go through far more severe vetting. Those poor people who had to fly back to their countries and then back to the US again, not only had to spend a huge amount of money out of their pockets but were also humiliated. The whole thing was ill-planned and badly executed. I can’t even imagine the cost to taxpayers for something that was not needed and was done on impulse.

    • Thank you for adding your personal experience and reminding readers just how difficult the immigration process is. The hardships of the refugees are often overlooked. Ill-planned, badly executed and so ineffective is right. With one impulsive, sweeping gesture he issued a declaration that adversely effected tens of thousands of families. I hope that the British expat in your family is happily settled in the states now.

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