What I've Learned So Far
I have interviewed people from six different countries thus far to include researching about their countries to understand what lies behind their immigration. The themes, which have have been the catalysts for leaving their countries of origin are woven throughout the histories of most immigrants. They include oppression, poverty, crime, war, hunger, disease, and just plain seeking a better life for themselves and their children.
Today we are witnessing worldwide the inability for nations to grasp with how to deal with the influx of refugees. From the stories I have been privileged to learn about from those I've interviewed I have learned many things that speak to the humanity with which they were granted, but which has been lost by many governments in this era of mass migration.
1. Although there certainly are those who immigrate to other countries that have bad intentions, the overwhelming majority do not. When I listen to people who have come to this country they are not in the minority believing that the freedoms and opportunities that are sought from moving to a democratic society make their difficult journeys not only worth it, but in many cases necessary to escape the previously experienced trauma of their former country.
Mirela and her parents are Bosnian Muslims, of which only her father actively practices his faith. In the early 1990's they were twice put in concentration camps by the Serbs who were eventually accused of attempting to commit genocide. The stories they relayed to me were harrowing. The resulting emigration to Germany first, and then the U.S. were miraculous and saved them from the further horrors that were wrought by the Serbs in subsequent years.
2. I have not heard anyone that I have interview thus far ever mention that they wish to take away jobs from American citizens. Each one has told of how they created their own opportunities, and have worked hard to choose that which they are capable of doing to be a part of what can only be viewed as contributing to their communities.
Rangan came from a small city in India. His father was a priest in a Hindu temple and Rangan helped out in the temple for many years since boyhood. But he knew how poor his family was despite the love and connection he and his six siblings had for one another and their parents. His father earned the equivalent of two dollars a month. The temple did provide them with a very small home, and food staples. Still, he eventually made it to graduate school in India, and a post-doctoral fellowship in the U.S. finding his passion in the sciences. He is a humble man who never forgets that family comes first; that one needs to strive to bring about a better life for those he loves, and those in his community that are in need.
3. I have gotten the sense that the root causes of immigration are often complex, and require a world that is willing to work together to tackle what is really at the core. Certainly wars, oppression of people by the dominant group in a country or region, which result in poverty, destruction of homes, villages, towns, communities, and cities, are the most difficult to address. But there are many other societal ills like crime and corruption that bode just as horribly for a country's citizenry.
Alvaro lived in central Mexico in a modestly sized city. He was a businessman who worked hard and, along with his wife, wished to raise their two sons in a household of love. and some His business was doing well, and he worded long, hard hours so that his sons could attend college, and to create a comfortable lifestyle for he and his wife.
As the drug cartels took hold with the help of corrupt police and government officials, and extortion became one of the tools that was exerted on people like him, Alvaro had to find a way to take his family out of the danger that permeated his city. He said to me that he never would have left Mexico, but that the lack of safety for his family forced him to.
It seems to me that we as human beings should feel safe no matter where we live. Certainly there are many in our own country that live in fear everyday. Our moral compass needs to expand as we work in concert with those like-minded in the world to reduce that which plagues those who feel the absolutely pull of survival to leave their homes.
My hope is that the fear being perpetuated today about immigrants can be replaced by a constructive, caring, humane and collective focus towards settling the world down from the destructive path it is currently on. This should include our planet's environmental health, moral development, and economic growth for all.