How Do We Integrate The Poor Into Our Neighborhoods?

copyright © 2008 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

As someone who lives in a neighborhood going through gentrification I am often at odds with my belief that poor people need to be integrated into mixed income neighborhoods and the fact that many poor people trash the neighborhoods they live in.  We must develop a method of removing poor people from the isolation of ghetto existence, while at the same time protecting the values of the properties we relocate them to.  Unfortunately because of personal decisions, lifestyles, and circumstances many of our poorer citizens have lost either the desire or the ability to respect their environments.  Many will say that this is due to our treatment of poor people and I would not disagree with this, but this does not help in creating situations that will allow them to escape the dangers of ghetto life.

Developers in some cities are trying to incorporate the same public housing tenants that once lived in the neighborhoods back into them after development through vouchers, subsidies, and grants.  Sometimes when poverty is multi-generational many self defeating habits may be developed, habits which make it difficult to understand the responsibilities of ownership.  I recommend that as part of the voucher and subsidy process we require recipients to attend seminars that detail the responsibilities of the members in an ownership society.  No one is inherently born knowing how to be responsible, we learn these things from our parents and our environments.  The reason many poor people are not more responsible is not because they are inherently lazy or trifling, but because no one has taught them any better.

The redevelopment of the Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg projects, where Ms. Jackson lived, is the first in the country to promise replacement of all low-income units within the same neighborhood, said Michael Kelly, director of the city Housing Authority.

“Mr. Kelly is undertaking a great experiment to see if he can turn around distressed neighborhoods and keep the original residents there to benefit,” said Sue Popkin, a housing expert at the Urban Institute.  “It’s a gamble.  We don’t know how to take a terrible neighborhood and make it nice while keeping the same people there.” NY Times

In Washington DC, they are trying to integrate the former residents back into a neighborhood that has been redeveloped, they are also trying to do similar things in Atlanta.  While this is a risky undertaking it is one that I think must be attempted and allowed to succeed.  So many other cities provide the former residents with vouchers to leave their old neighborhoods.  The problem with this approach is that only certain landlords will accept the vouchers, these are usually slumlords who want to fill up crappy residences.  This only relocates the former residents into scattered pockets of poverty throughout the city, once again surrounding them with other poor residents and bad schools.  It is a difficult situation trying to incorporate former residents into the newer developments.

I know in my city they have tried to renovate older apartments into more mixed income residences in lower income neighborhoods.  The problem is that placing a mansion next to the projects does not improve the projects or the neighborhood.  It is hard to get higher income people to move into a neighborhood with drug dealers on the corners and violence in the streets.  We have to develop a method of improving the neighborhoods and renovating them while still being able to integrate the former residents.  In DC, they have created committees comprising of residents, city officials, and developers in an effort to create ground rules for integrating the former residents back into the neighborhoods.  I think it is important to allow the residents an opportunity to take part in the decision making, if given the opportunity I believe they do not want the blight, drug dealing, and violence in their neighborhoods either.

A committee of residents, officials and neighbors decided that any returnees with a serious criminal conviction within three years of the move-in date, and anyone with seriously bad credit, would be excluded.  They will keep their current vouchers or public units, officials promise.  NY Times

Integrating these former residents will not be easy, but it is something as a society we must continue to do.  If we do not then we are sentencing many of our fellow citizens to a life of hopelessness and strife.  It is a thin line we walk trying to balance the opportunities of incorporating these former residents with the genuine concerns of the new residents for safety, property values, and peace.  I know for me this is a challenge that though I struggle with it, it is one that I must undertake.  We are all better off in my opinion when we are living, working, and learning in a diverse environment.  Not only do we help those who are struggling, but we also help ourselves to be better.

Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.  – Author Unknown

Immigration In America. The Past; Grass Is Always Greener

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

During this Thanksgiving Holy Day observance, we, the citizens of this nation say grace for all that G-d, and country, have given us.  We celebrate the harvest.  Our countrymen venerate the Native Americans that kindly shard their food and grain-filled lands with our European ancestors.  We revel in what we reap.  With thanks to our ancestors, the mavericks of the past, we, the children of immigrants, grew gloriously.  Yet, while white Americans, descendants of the foreign born, rejoice, the darker complected grieve.  

For many citizens more native to the terra firma, than the pale skinned emigrants the traditional Thanksgiving memorial is a National Day of Mourning.

To some, the “First Thanksgiving” presents a distorted picture of the history of relations between the European colonists, their descendants, and the Native People. The total emphasis is placed on the respect that existed between the Wampanoags led by the sachem Massasoit and the first generation of Pilgrims in Plymouth, while the long history of subsequent violence and discrimination suffered by Native People across America is nowhere represented.

Aggression and repression are American legacies.  However, menacing misrepresentations of this nation’s past are touted.  In this country we speak of a “melting pot” and call ourselves the “United’ States of America.  Americans read, hear, and believe what we see as the beauty our fore-bearers.  We embrace the documented accounts learned in Elementary School.  Caucasian countrymen wholeheartedly endorse the legends passed down from mother to daughter, father to son.  We, the citizens glean the gems grandparents bestowed upon us.  

The yarns are as gold, woven into a tapestry that is his story, hers, and now ours.  In our youth, we clung to the narratives Nana and Zayde told.  These were and are still treasures.  For most who reside in the United States, the folklore of our kin is our truth.  

We in this prosperous nation trust, before “they” the current crop of new arrivals came, Americans were content.  Life was good.  Most individuals, comfy and cozy in their reality forget, generations ago “we” Americans, were “them,” the unwanted, unwelcome, uninvited, undesirable émigrés.  

Our Moms, Dads, Grandpapas, Grandmamas and Greats were labeled shiftless, lazy loafers.  Your mother, my father, was the wrong color.  They were the olive, yellow, red, pink, or pinko problems.  Those with large noses, slanted eyes, or loud boisterous voices gestured profusely.  Migrants to America were too quiet, too manipulative, and certainly engaged in criminal practices.  Centuries ago, according to the persons who defined themselves as American, migrants, then [as now,] brought on all the ills of society.  These uncouth clans without refinement, or culture, were completely uncivilized.  

Our ancestors were not as the Black slaves shipped to the New World solely to serve the needs of the elite without hope or reason to believe they could or would become wealthy.  These newer non-natives had the audacity to think this land was theirs.  Here they believed they could thrive.  The European and East Asian immigrants invaded and attempted to make the American Dream their own.  The English poor, Irish, the German, Greeks, Italians, Russians, Rumanians, Hungarians, Turks, Czechs, French families, and even Chinese came to this pristine territory, only to soil the countryside.

Those that first arrived on the shores of this North American continent soon wondered, what did any one that was not like them contribute to society.  Other than being crass, the émigrés in the earlier century certainly served no real purpose.  Individuals who thought themselves native to this region said, sure immigrants helped build the nation.  However, they took more than they gave.

Granted. the goodly migrants, desperate to find solace in the New World were willing to accept wages so low that they could not possibly survive.  Nonetheless, in the minds of the earliest elite “Americans” the migrants were nothing more than the scum of the Earth.  These [insert the racist, bigoted, xenophobic label of your choice] needed to go back where they came from.  Although “Americans” benefited from the greener grass of what they called home, they did not want the same for those that came after them.

Old fears over new faces

By Michael Powell ?

The Washington Post

September 21, 2006

New York – They were portrayed as a disreputable lot, the immigrant hordes of this great city.

The Germans refused for decades to give up their native tongue and raucous beer gardens. The Irish of Hell’s Kitchen brawled and clung to political sinecures. The Jews crowded into the Lower East Side, speaking Yiddish, fomenting socialism and resisting forced assimilation. And by their sheer numbers, the immigrants depressed wages in the city. As for the multitudes of Italians, who settled Mulberry Street, East Harlem and Canarsie? In 1970, seven decades after their arrival, Italians lagged behind every immigrant group in educational achievement.

Inhabitants of the civilized country called the United States disgustedly remark, ‘immigrants must know “English’ is spoken here; yet, they never bother to learn “the” language.  “They” take jobs from eager Americans.  Migrants form gangs.  “They” are the criminal element in every urban center.  Few adjust or adapt.  Émigrés do not assimilate; nor do they try to.  Migrants associate only with their own kind.  Refugees send money to the relatives in their home country.  Thus, these non-natives further destroy the economy.  Economic refugees do not live as we do.  

They do not eat, as Americans know is best.  The smell of foreign foods fills the air and oh, the stench.  “Exiles” have no ethics.  “They” are not as “we” are.  Yet, it is “Us,” the “Americans” that provide for their needs.  Emigrants do not care for themselves as our vaunted ancestors did.  

Persons proud to be American blame those desirous of the status for a past long gone.  As citizens of this country give thanks for all they have, they bemoan all they lost.

Much that was said of migrants a century ago is stated today, over, and over, and over again.  As we walk through our day we discuss the woes imposed by immigration.  Individuals that arrogantly call themselves Americans remember. ‘When great-grandma and great-grandpa were but lads and lasses they toiled.  Our courageous fore-bearers endured numerous trials and trepidations.  Loved ones became successful despite any challenges.’  “Americans” believe those we cherish were courageous, unlike the brave souls that cross borders in search of greener grass, golden streets, and a chance to achieve, today.’

Throughout the “melting pot” known as the USA we hear “My family came to this country by boat.  Once here our parents pounded the pavement for work.  They took odd jobs.  They scrimped and saved.  Children studied diligently.  Education was everything.  Now, we are doctors, lawyers, corporate moguls, multi-millionaires, and even billionaires.  Relatives of mine made it.”  

Hence, Americans ask with a distinct note of scorn, “Why can’t these people do as we did?”  Actually, few are authentically interested in the differences or the similarities.  Those that title themselves Americans do not genuinely inquire.  Solid citizens see and hear what they expect and believe to be true.  What is most important to the native born is their personal want; the new émigrés must leave immediately.  Empathy for those outside our purebred American bloodline is rarely expressed.

As toddlers we learned to appreciate all that our ancestors went through to make this country great.  In our teens we were told that without the sweat and tears of Opa and Oma our lives would not have been so good.  This nation was built on the backs of our ancestors.  Decades ago our predecessors could not afford the luxuries we have today.  They had no telephones, televisions; nor was the technology advanced enough to encompass telecommunications. Much that we take for granted in the twenty first century was conceived through the efforts of our forefathers.  For these, late in the month of November, and everyday, we give thanks.

The bitter arguments of the past echo loudly these days. Most concerns voiced today – that too many immigrants seek economic advantage and fail to understand democracy, that they refuse to learn English, overcrowd homes and overwhelm public services – were heard a century ago. And there was a nub of truth to some complaints, not least that the vast influx of immigrants drove down working-class wages.

Yet historians and demographers are clear: New York and the United States owe much of their economic resilience to replenishing waves of immigrants. Descendants of those Italians, Jews, Irish and Germans have assimilated.

Now another wave washes over. Fully 38 percent of New York’s 8 million residents are foreign-born, nearly the same percentage as a century ago.

“It would be easy to say the short-run costs of immigration outweighed the benefits,” said Joe Salvo, a director at New York’s City Planning Department. “But the benefits are longer term. We wouldn’t be the superpower we are if we hadn’t let them in.”

If we had not let the immigrants in we would not be the nation we are today.  Few would have reason to give thanks for the prosperity that envelops the masses.  Had it not been for émigrés, Thanksgiving might be a Day of Mourning for more than the Native Americans.  Perchance, if the citizens of this nation wish  to fabricate a festivity they might celebrate immigrants and the America those from foreign lands help to create.  However, sadly, that is not what we do.

In this country, we devote infinite airtime to xenophobic broadcasters that tell us to build walls, deport our labor force, or jail anyone suspected of being without legal papers.  Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity, to name a few, promote plenty of bigotry.  Interestingly, no one requires these crass celebrities to show their papers.  Might their kin have entered before documentation was required or have we merely forgotten that there was a time when . . .

It is fitting to forget or to romanticize the hard times.  In retrospect individuals often interpret history as idyllic.  Arrogant Americans embrace embellishments.  Those that reside in the Western Hemisphere like to think of themselves as rugged individualists, mavericks with a mighty will.  Older Americans recall a time when our antecedents had no automobiles.  Motor vehicles were costly.  Great grandmothers and great grandfathers walked to school in snow, sleet, rain, and hail storms.  Our ancestor worked when they were very young.  Every member of the family had to help secure income for the whole.  Those that preceded us pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.  “My family earned their just rewards.”  The implication being, newer immigrants do not.  They merely live off the current social welfare system.

The early system,

Advocates of stricter enforcement argue that those who came a century ago were different because they arrived legally. Movies and novels depict agents at New York’s Ellis Island – that keyhole through which 16 million immigrants passed from 1892 to 1922 – examining immigrants and their papers with an eye toward shipping back laggards.

Yet, as we study further we understand the definition of a slacker, a shirker, a straggler, or an undesirable was fixed.  Few needed actual papers.  Most were allowed to pass into this nation and become Americans because they appeared stalwart, or at least they were not too strange, too dark, or their eyes were properly placed on their faces.  Money was also a means for eligibility.

Immigration legislation since 1790

The Naturalization Act of 1790 established rules for naturalized citizenship, as per Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. The law provided the first U.S. rules for granting national citizenship. Citizenship was allowed only to free whites.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first race-based immigration act. It excluded Chinese laborers from the United States for 10 years and barred Chinese from citizenship. The act was repealed in 1943.

For sixty-one years, Americans proudly enforced another action that ensured separate and unequal.  Discrimination was sanctioned in the land of the free and home of the brave.  Throughout our existence Americans endorsed intolerance.  Frequently, European and Asian in eras past, packed their bags and headed for the land of opportunity.  Once on the shores of the United States immigrants frequently found the borders were closed to them.  Restrictions greeted those determined to come to a country where the streets were paved in gold.  In 1939, in an attempt to flee from the Third Reich, Jewish refugees boarded the transatlantic German ship, the Saint Louis.  Near one thousand filed  for visas and did all that they could to ensure safe passage.  However, quotas forbade their entrance into the United States.

American public opinion, although ostensibly sympathetic to the plight of refugees and critical of Hitler’s policies, still favored immigration restrictions. The Great Depression had left millions of Americans unemployed and fearful of economic competition for the scarce few jobs available. It also fueled anti-Semitism, xenophobia, nativism, and isolationism. A Fortune Magazine poll at the time indicated that 83 percent of Americans opposed relaxing restrictions on immigration.

Few politicians were willing to challenge the mood of the nation. At about the same time that the St. Louis passengers were seeking a haven, the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have permitted the admission of 20,000 Jewish children from Germany outside the existing quota, was allowed to die in committee. On the Wagner-Rogers bill and the admittance of the St. Louis passengers, President Roosevelt remained silent. Following the U.S. government’s refusal to permit the passengers to disembark, the St. Louis sailed back to Europe on June 6, 1939. Jewish organizations (particularly the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) negotiated with European governments to allow the passengers to be admitted to Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Many of the passengers in continental Europe later found themselves under Nazi rule.

Restrictions imposed before the Nazi [German National Socialist Party] began their reign of terror, could not, and would not be rescinded more than a decade later, regardless of the fact that people were being annihilated seemingly because of their race, religion, color or creed.  The law is the law.  Americans felt it more important to uphold rigid regulations that restricted entrance into the land of the free than it was to provide sanctuary for those destined to die.  In America, there are standards to keep out the riff-raff.

The Immigration Act of 1924 established a national-origins quota system and was aimed at restricting southern and eastern European immigration. Also known as the National Origins Act, Johnson-Reed Act or the Immigration Quota Act of 1924.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (the McCarran- Walter Act) established the basic law of U.S. citizenship and immigration. Immigration was restricted by nationality but not by race.

Finally, little more than five decades ago, embarrassed Americans began to realize their racist ways and decided to change.  Newer legislation was passed.  Although requirements were loosened, prejudice remained the rule in America.  Only workers deft in a field considered honorable were [and are] welcome.   Marriage or means might grant a ticket into this wealthy and “wonderful” nation.

The Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 (also known as the Hart-Celler Act or the INS Act of 1965) abolished national-origin quotas and gave preference to those whose skills were needed and close relatives of U.S. citizens.

The obsolescence of a law and obfuscation allowed more migrants to stay.  However, stipulations remained.  Those that escaped dire circumstance in countries abroad were frequently shunned when they arrived on American shores.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who had been in the United States before 1982 but made it a crime to hire an illegal immigrant.

The Immigration Act of 1990 established annual limits for certain categories of immigrants and eased immigration for skilled foreign workers.

Sources: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, University of Massachusetts, Center for Immigration

However, although there is ample evidence to the contrary our countrymen continue to glorify their ancestors’ existences as they diminish the efforts and challenges of those new to this country.  Political pundits and speechwriters posture; citizens believe.  We all recall the grandeur of the Reagan years.  It was the era of the elite, and attitudes of decades gone by became more prominent.

Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Reagan, wrote about her Irish forebears in a Wall Street Journal column: “They waited in line. They passed the tests. They had to get permission to come.  . . . They had to get through Ellis Island  . . . get questioned and eyeballed by a bureaucrat with a badge.”

Fiction and fantasy is far more appealing than the brutal facts.  The reality is we love our relatives.  We trust what those we treasure tell us, even if it is exaggerated.  While certain characteristics of those we value may trouble us, there is an inexorable bond that cannot be denied.  We love those we know intimately, even if we do not like them.  Oh, if we only bothered to envision the recent immigrant as family, or among our kin. If we cherished to our core that no matter the country of origin, émigrés and we the American people share a familial name, human, then we might understand.  Currently, few recognize that we are all related.  

Thus, we admire only those we recognize as our antecedents.  Our familiarity with our bloodline solidifies the appreciation for their saga, their struggle and their successes.   Their story is ours.  We have firsthand knowledge.  We know what we know; hence, we never consider . . .

[T]hese accounts are flawed, historians say. Until 1918, the United States did not require passports; the term “illegal immigrant” had no meaning. New arrivals were required only to prove their identity and find a relative or friend who could vouch for them.

Customs agents kept an eye out for lunatics and the infirm (and after 1905, for anarchists). Ninety-eight percent of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island were admitted to the United States, and 78 percent spent less than eight hours on the island. (The U.S.-Mexico border then was unguarded and freely crossed in either direction.)

“Shipping companies did the health inspections in Europe because they didn’t want to be stuck taking someone back,” said Nancy Foner, a sociology professor at Hunter College and author of “From Ellis Island to JFK: New York’s Two Great Waves of Immigration.”

“Eventually they introduced a literacy test, but it was in the immigrant’s own language, not English.”

At the peak of that earlier wave, 75 percent of immigrants landed in New York. Some, such as Germans fleeing failed revolutions, sought democracy. Others, such as the Jews fleeing Russian pogroms, sought safety.

But perhaps half of Italian immigrants returned to Italy, often with cash to buy a farm or own a business. Greeks, too, returned in large numbers.

“People complain about Mexicans coming for economic reasons, but they don’t realize how many earlier immigrants just sojourned here,” said Richard Wright, a geography professor at Dartmouth College. “The rates of return are staggering.”

When Congress enacted immigration quotas in the 1920s, it left the door ajar for northern Europeans and Mexicans, even then sought by U.S. businesses as cheap labor.

European immigrants found plenty of backlash.  Nativist sentiments ran strong, and white Protestant reformers championed English-language instruction and temperance, the latter reflecting the Establishment’s disdain for hard-drinking immigrants.

When we were very young we heard our Nana was strong.  Papa braved the signs of prejudice placed in his path.  Our Mom and Dad immersed themselves into the culture.  They wanted to assimilate.  The individuals nearest and dearest to use learned quickly.  Speaking English and being American was important to them.  Learning the language and pursuit of citizenship is equally important to those that wish to stay here in America today.

In fact, contrary to what “English Only” advocates assume, the vast majority of today’s Asian and Latino immigrants are acquiring English proficiency and assimilating as fast as did earlier generations of Italian, Russian and German immigrants.  For example, research studies show that over 95 percent of first generation Mexican Americans are English proficient, and that more than 50 percent of second generation Mexican Americans have lost their native tongue entirely.  In addition, census data reveal that nearly 90 percent of Latinos five years old or older speak English in their households.  And 98 percent of Latinos surveyed said they felt it is “essential” that their children learn to read and write English “perfectly.”

Much to the dismay of “Americans,” or easily dismissed by smug “natives” immigrants have a deep desire to understand and utter meaningful phrases in English.  Migrants en masse work to expand English language skills. In recent years the aspiration is more profound.  Perchance, the reason is the newer economic refugees find themselves in diverse communities.  According to a Pew Charitable Trust Study this cohort of people newly transplanted are less likely to live in ethnic enclaves.

Dispersal and Concentration: Patterns of Latino Residential Settlement

Pew Charitable Trust

Contact: Cindy L. Jobbins

Washington, D.C. – 12/27/2004 – Contrary to conventional wisdom, most Latinos do not live in densely packed, highly homogenous, Spanish-language communities dominated by immigrant cultures. Rather, most live in neighborhoods with non-Hispanic majorities.??

And many neighborhoods where Latinos make up the majority are surprisingly diverse. Those neighborhoods contain a mix of native-born and foreign-born Latinos, Spanish speakers and English speakers, the poor and the middle class, according to a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center.??

The study reveals that some 20 million Hispanics-57 percent of the total-live in neighborhoods in which Hispanics make up less than half of the population, according to an analysis of data from the 2000 Census. In the places were these Latinos live, only an average of seven percent of the residents are Hispanic.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century immigrants intermingled and intermarried.  Most insulated them selves from a world that did not accept them, and perhaps was frightening to them.  Situated in homogeneous settlements few of the refugees of old felt a need to acquire English language skills.

The “new” immigrants, mostly poor, unskilled, non-Protestant laborers between the ages of 15 and 40, clung to their native languages, religions, and cultural traditions to endure the economic and social stresses of industrial capitalism. Between 1877 and 1890, 6.3 million people immigrated to the United States, most from southern and eastern Europe. Much of mainstream society found these “new immigrants” troubling, resulting in a rise in anti-immigrant feeling and activity . . .

Immigrant families were mostly close-knit nuclear families, and they tended to marry within their own ethnic groups. They depended on immigrant associations for their social safety net, native language newspapers for their news and political views, and community-based churches and schools.

When the émigrés from abroad needed assistance they often relied on families, friends, or familiars. Neighbors watched out and worked for those in close proximity.  Religious sanctuaries and clergy comforted those that suffered hardships.  Rabbis, priests, pastors, any patriarch would do.

Political “machines” provided some needed services for these immigrants while also enriching themselves by exploiting the dependency of the cities’ new residents. William “Boss” Tweed and his Tammany Hall in New York was the most infamous of the political machines.

Migrants were often dependent on others for support.  Just as the immigrants of today, they could not make it on their own.  Émigrés of the past were treated with disdain.  They did the dirty work and lived in filthy hovels.  Refugees were to be seen only when it served those that were born in this nation.  Rarely did the two “classes” have reason to mingle.  “Americans” lived far from inner city ghettos where the foreigners resided.  Urban home life was waning.  Green grass and graceful lawns did not grow in concrete.

Between 1870 and 1900, cities expanded upward and outward on a base of new technologies including metal-frame skyscrapers, electric elevators, streetcar systems, and outlying green suburbs. Cities were no longer “walking cities.” As the middle class moved out, immigrants and working class people poured in, creating urban slums through overcrowding. The city produced what was an increasingly stratified and fragmented society . . .

Immigrants from abroad joined rural Americans in search of jobs in the nation’s cities. These newcomers to the city were often forced to live in hastily constructed and overcrowded tenement houses with primitive, if any, sanitation facilities. The “dumbbell tenement” was the most infamous housing of this type.

The history of immigration is as these early tenement houses, not pretty. As they lived a life of hardship few of the early emigrants expressed the sentiment of the green, green grass of home.  Racism towards those that built this nation was rampant.  Today, those that serve and shape this country experience similar bigotry.  Then and now, immigrant families are separated without a care.  

Two undersized old people stand before the commissioner. They are Hungarian Jews whose children have preceded them here, and now, being fairly comfortable, have sent for their parents so they can spend the rest of their lives together. The questions, asked through an interpreter, are pertinent and much the same as those already asked by the court which has decided upon their deportation. The commissioner rules that the children be put under a sufficient bond to guarantee that this aged couple shall not become a burden to the public, and consequently they will be admitted.

A Russian Jew and his son are called next. The father is a pitiable-looking object; his large head rests upon a small, emaciated body; the eyes speak of premature loss of power, and are listless, worn out by the study of the Talmud, the graveyard of Israel’s history. Beside him stands a stalwart son, neatly attired in the uniform of a Russian college student.

His face is Russian rather than Jewish, intelligent rather than shrewd, materialistic rather than spiritual. “Ask them why they came,” the commissioner says rather abruptly. The answer is: “We had to.” “What was his business in Russia?” “A tailor.” “How much does he earn a week?” “Ten to twelve rubles.” “What did the son do?” “He went to school.” “Who supported him?” “The father.” “What do they expect to do in America?” “Work.” “Have they any relatives?” “Yes, a son and a brother.” “What does he do?” “He is a tailor.” “How much does he earn?” “Twelve dollars a week.” “Has he a family?” “Wife and four children.” “Ask them whether they are willing to be separated; the father to go back and the son to remain here?”

They look at each other; no emotion yet visible, the question came to suddenly. Then something in the background of their feelings move, and the father, used to self-denial through his life, says quietly, without pathos and yet tragically, “Of course.” And the son says, after casting his eyes to the ground, ashamed to look his father in the face, “Of course.” And, “This one shall be taken and the other left,” for this was their judgment day.

~ Edward Steiner

The individual that can “pass” is often more acceptable in a society where white and academically bright are perceived as wonderful.  You dear reader may recall the earlier references to immigration law.  For centuries, light skinned laborers were considered up to standard.  Permits and papers were awarded to pale persons with skills.  At times, some Caucasians were shunned for reasons of race, religion, and age.  Many were deported before they were able to prove themselves.  The American bureaucrats separated blood relatives without a care.  Even if a person was granted entrance to the country, there was no assurance they would be allowed to associate with those that thought them less than.

By the 1950s, Germans, Irish and Jews had abandoned immigrant enclaves. Although barriers of prejudice remained – Ivy League schools and white-shoe law firms in New York maintained stringent “Jewish” quotas well into the 1960s – the sons and daughters of these immigrants moved quickly into white-collar professions

Less than a half a century ago, institutions of higher learning held many at bay.  Although most Americans wish to think themselves colorblind, in June 2007, we witnessed that even today, separate and unequal is sanctioned by the highest court in the land.  Consider the case of Parents Involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 Et Al. As a result of this Supreme Court decision, not only will Black Americans, our enslaved émigrés who have never been given the opportunity to reach socio-economic equity, feel the wrath of racism, so too will dark-skinned immigrants.

In its June ruling the Supreme Court forbade most existing voluntary local efforts to integrate schools in a decision favored by the Bush administration despite warnings from academics that it would compound educational inequality.

“It is about as dramatic a reversal in the stance of the federal courts as one could imagine,” said Gary Orfield, a UCLA professor and a co-author of the report.

“The federal courts are clearly pushing us backward segregation with the encouragement of the Justice Department of President George W. Bush,” he said in an interview.

The United States risks becoming a nation in which a new majority of non-white young people will attend “separate and inferior” schools, the report said.

“Resegregation … is continuing to grow in all parts of the country for both African Americans and Latinos and is accelerating the most rapidly in the only region that had been highly desegregated — the South,” it said.

The trend damages the prospects for non-white students and will likely have a negative effect on the U.S. economy, according to the report by one of the leading U.S. research centers on issues of civil rights and racial inequality.

Part of the reason for the resegregation is the rapidly expanding number of black and Latino children and a corresponding fall in the number of white children, it said . . .

School desegregation is a sensitive issue in the United States because of resistance to it from white leaders in the decade after a 1954 Supreme Court decision saying segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

One of the chief complaints of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s was that black-only public schools were inevitably starved of resources by local government with the result that black children received inferior education.

Latinos are the fastest growing minority in U.S. schools and for them segregation is often more profound than it was when the phenomenon was first measured 40 years ago, according to the report, “Historic Reversals, Accelerating Resegregation and the need for new Integration Strategies.”

“Too often Latino students face triple segregation by race, class and language,” it said.

Once more, we see that in recent years laws invoked and reforms rendered help to solidify segregation.  Today, Brown immigrants are more severely punished than others might be.  Creamy chocolate, coffee colored individuals, cannot and will not be acculturated, in part because the legal system allows for separation.  The lily white, with the cute little button noses, and proper training are again afforded privileges and opportunities, just as they were a century ago.  Migrants [and Afro-Americans] who appear different no matter the year, 1650, 1750, 1850, 1950, or 2007 will, once more, be relegated to the back of the line.  

[Black persons are in a class of their own.  While not necessarily new to this nation, and for the most part native born, these persons, by virtue of their skin color alone are perpetually separated from the “mainstream” of society.  It seems the darker the complexion, the slower the climb to equality.]  

Be it in the nineteenth, twentieth, or twenty-first century, those who noses are a bit too flat, whose faces are a trace too full, whose eye color is less transparent are thought to be less worthy of a decent education, job, home, or chance.  They may learn the language, work hard, and diligently.  Nonetheless, in America, an immigrant is inferior and treated as such.   Experiences are far from excellent.  Still, immigrants, try.  They endeavor to achieve and succeed.

I [was] born in Mexico City, in 1969.  When I was child used to be a good boy and a good student, my parents were proud of me.  My father is a teacher who has taught mathematics for 25 years. He spent all his time studying and fixing his car.  My mother is a retired secretary. We are two brothers and one sister, they live in Mexico and are married, I am the only one who is still single.

I was studying before come this country, and working for a paper company for two year. Then I thought “I want to go to USA” the life in my country is difficult because there aren’t enough opportunities for getting better lives. I planned to come here for [a] couples [of] year, save money and go back, but every day I have been living with my friend for many years, he and I, we are as brothers. I keep going to school until I reach my goal, if it is possible never stop studying.

When I was a student my major was mathematics and physics. At first when I immigrate to United States, I had many struggles. One of them was I did not know anybody here, did not have enough money for rent, a place to live, and pay for food, I did not understand and speak English. I began to live on the streets and looked for food in different places where people give free food and clothes for everybody who want to. After two weeks I got a job and my life changed, I started to earn money and rented a place to live. Then I saw that it is important to learn English, and two months later I started school.

~ Valdimir

Years from now, hopefully, Valdimir’s children will sit by his side.  They will hear his tales of toil and success.  His offspring will see that their father thrives. They too will idealize, romanticize what was a painful reality.  The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the now young Valdimir will recount as “Americans’ do now.

Survival, upon reflection illustrates we are a success.  Trials and tribulation taught our forefathers much. These same struggles will secure certain edification for the newer émigrés..  They endeavor to reach a novel triumph.  I have faith they will.

Just as our families flourished, no matter the obstructions, so too will the relatives of the twentieth-first century economic refugees.  Let us give them time before we build more physical and psychological walls.  Perchance, the migrants will show us the grass was not greener in the past.  Today, our lawns are lush, our country grows, all with thanks to those that migrate to America.

The Immigrant Story . . .

  • The National Day of Mourning.  Pilgrim Hall Museum.
  • Old fears over new faces. By Michael Powell.  The Washington Post September 21, 2006
  • Immigration.  Stories of the Past.  Immigration.  The Journey to America.
  • Voyage of the Saint Louis.  United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • Return To Europe of the Saint Louis. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union Briefing Paper Number 6, English Only.  Lectric Law Library.
  • Dispersal and Concentration: Patterns of Latino Residential Settlement, Contact Cindy L. Jobbins.  The Pew Charitable Trusts. 2004
  • Toward an Urban Society, 1877-1900.  Chapter 19.   Pearson Education.
  • Dumball Tenements.  By Andrew S. Dolkart. Columbia University School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.
  • Parents Involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School district Number 1 Et Al .
  • Report: Segregation in U.S. Schools is Increasing, By Matthew Bigg.  Reuters.  Washington Post. ?Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 8:42 PM
  • pdf Report: Segregation in U.S. Schools is Increasing, By Matthew Bigg.  Reuters.  Washington Post. ?Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 8:42 PM
  • Thanksgiving. Will Our Past, Our Present Be Prologue? ©

    As the celebration continues and the cynicism mounts, a delivery was made to me.  I thank William S. Burroughs for his Thanksgiving Prayer.  I am grateful to bzbb of My Left Wing fame.  S/he shared the text and resource with me. 

    After reading my Thanksgiving story of genocide, some decided that they knew I loathe the holiday; I do not.  I do have disdain for humans that knowingly hurt other humans.  I am disquieted when I realize that man, woman, or child intentionally commits crimes against nature.

    When people speak against “evil” and then act in ways that I think they might deem “sinful” I am confused.  While, I personally do not believe in either concept, I wonder why those that do think these constructs are valid behave in ways that could be defined as wicked.

    As I listen to William Burroughs and read the text of his musings, I am miffed.  What are we giving thanks for on this the fourth Thursday in November?  What do we welcome in the days that follow?  I offer the Burroughs prayer so that we all might ponder.

    Thanksgiving Prayer
    By William S Burroughs [1914 to 1997]
    American Novelist, Essayist, and Social Critic

    Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons,
    Destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
    Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
    Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
    Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.
    Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
    Thanks for the American dream,?
    To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.
    Thanks for the KKK.
    For n****r-killin’ lawmen feelin’ their notches.
    For decent church-goin’ women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
    Thanks for “Kill a Queer for  Christ” stickers.
    Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
    Thanks for Prohibition and the  war against drugs.
    Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind the own business.
    Thanks for a nation of finks.
    Yes, thanks for all the memories– all right let’s see your arms!
    You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
    Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

    I cannot thank William Seward Burroughs II enough.  My mind would never travel in the places his did.  However, perchance, you dear reader might relate.

    If nothing else, I think this performance might provoke a deeper pondering.  I invite each of us to reflect, to meditate, and contemplate, what does Thanksgiving Day mean to us.  What does the holiday season connote?

    How might our past relate to our present and what will our future be.

    “Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.”
    ~ George Santanya

    “What’s past is prologue.”
    ~ William Shakespeare

    Consider Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Korea.  Is there talk of occupation or might we overthrow regime after regime? 

    Contemplate racial profiling.  Does the Patriot Act make this legal. 

    Look within your local cities.  Are there slums, ghettos, gangs, and girls walking the streets to make a decent wage?  Perhaps, workingwomen are not the only ones looking for work.  There are those that lost their employ so long ago they are no longer counted by government tallies.  They dropped off the rolls, and have since dropped out of sight.  In actuality, these persons are still visible; look out your window.  There they are, on the avenue. 

    Are Blacks treated as whites; are the rich revered, are the poor?

    What of women; what of immigrants?

    Might we recall the Native Americans and the wilderness that welcomed our forefathers?  What became of these?

    What occurs in your home or that of your neighbors?  Is communication prevalent in your abode, or in that of those living adjacent to you?  Is care evident and flourishing or is this concept one you and others crave, but only dream of.  I wonder. 

    What did you give thanks for yesterday and what will you be grateful for tomorrow?

    Thanksgiving.  The Past, Present, and Pondering

  • Burroughs. By bzbb. My Left Wing. Friday, November 24, 2006
  • William S. Burroughs – Thanksgiving Prayer. YouTube.com
  • Practice to Deceive Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks’ nightmare scenario–it’s their plan. By Joshua Micah Marshall. Washington Monthly. April 2003
  • US Patriot Act. American Civil Liberties Union. November 14, 2003
  • Streetgangs. Streetgangs.com
  • Ghettos: The Changing Consequences of Ethnic Isolation, By Ed Glaeser.  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Spring 1997
  • Living Wage, Facts at a Glance. The Economic Policy Institute. 2006
  • Jobs Picture, November 2006. The Economic Policy Institute. 2006
  • The Two Nations of Black America. Frontline. Public Broadcasting Services
  • The Rich Get Richer. The Washington Post. Tuesday, April 12, 2005
  • Income Inequity. The Real Reason the Rich Get Richer. ©  By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
  • Women’s History in America.?Presented By Women’s International Center
  • Poverty in America, One Nation Pulling Apart. Poverty in America Project
  • The World Confronts Its E-waste Nightmare. By Tam Harbert.  Natural Resources Defense Council Fall 2006
  • Talking Turkey, Eating Shit and Taking the Heat, By starkravinglunaticradical.  Booman Tribune. November 24, 2005
  • Immigrants’ Rights. American Civil Liberties Union
  • The Natural History of Neighborhood Violence, By Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University and Garth Davies, Simon Fraser University.  Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, SAGE Publications Vol. 20, No. 2, 127-147.  2004
  • Communication. By Stefanie Cox, Larry Graber, Gregory Olson, Peacemakers. Better Endings, New Beginnings
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.  By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.  McGraw-Hill Trade. June 2002
  • Give Thanks for Genocide. Thanksgiving, National Day of Mourning © By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org