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Posted by Admin
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes by Expat
Tomorrow has been declared to be "A Day Without Immigrants" here in the United States. According to a Yahoo News article,
Monday has been set aside for immigrants to boycott work, school and shopping to show how much they matter to their communities. But with some growing tired of street protests, and others afraid they'll be deported or fired for walking out, people are planning to support the effort in myriad ways.
Some will work but buy nothing on Monday. Others will protest at lunch breaks or at rallies after work. There will be church services, candlelight vigils, picnics and human chains.
The range of activities shows both how powerful the immigrants' rights movement has become in a matter of weeks, and that organizers don't yet have a clear focus on its next step.
What the quoted section of the article fails to mention, is that these protests are primarily in support of undocumented immigrants and in opposition to bill H.R. 4437.
Being an immigrant in the United States has not been an easy experience. When I moved here, I expected to receive the occasional maple syrup and hoser jokes. What I did not expect, was the hostility that I have received.
Shortly after my arrival to this country, I realized that I had a great deal of time to fill while waiting for my immigration paperwork to be completed, so I began to do volunteer work. Oddly enough, it was through volunteering my time for the community that I encountered some hurtful attitudes towards immigration. The organization for which I was volunteering was the same type of organization that I had worked for while in Canada. By all means, I was, in fact, working for free at a professional job that I had been paid to do on the other side of the border. I was, therefore, taken aback at some of the attitudes that I encountered and some of the things that were said to me. In fact, it was while volunteering that I was first referred to as "that immigrant girl" or "poor immigrant girl". It got even worse when I was asked if I wanted a job sewing on buttons for 6¢ a button. Being overly naive at the time, I did not quite catch the insinuation and just thought the question was odd. Now knowing what some of the commonly held ideas towards immigrants and immigration are in this country, I look back on that remark and shudder that someone would actually have said that.
Tomorrow's planned events have me on edge. Everyone in this nation has an opinion on immigration, despite the fact that very few have actually dealt with the system. Considering the amount of bungling that the USCIS did with my case, I would be the first in line calling for immigration reform. However, while I oppose some measures of H.R.4437, I don’t support the rallies that have been going on in this country. I fear that such protests are actually counter-productive and poison the average American’s view on immigration and immigrants even further - a simple look at the online comments section of our local newspaper provides verification of that.
After much frustration, I finally received my Social Security Number in the mail and immediately put it to good use in getting my Illinois driver's license and applying for jobs. While most of the job postings that I have applied for make note that, "[Company name] makes all hiring decisions without regard to an applicant’s gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, marital status, veteran status, disability or any other category protected by local, state, or federal law", I have a difficult time believing that to be true based on some of the remarks that I have received since moving here. As such, I can not help but think that having all of my educational and professional experience come from out of country might prove to be a liability in my job search - even more so at this time of protest with immigration being front and center. I suppose that only time will tell what effect these protests will have for those of us who are here legally and who are eager to rebuild our lives in this country.
Expat Talkback: - What are the Stateside expats views on these immigration rallies? - What have been your experiences as a new immigrant?
You make some interesting, points. As a country that was built by immigrants, the US of today has become xenophobic, bigoted and biased toward immigrants.
I am just curious, are you there because you have to be for whatever reason? I am asking because it is difficult for me to comprehend why any Canadian would want to live and work in the present day US.
I'm not talking about family reasons such as marriage to an American, sick relatives, etc. or because of work-place transfer, where one must go or else lose the job. And no offence was meant by my question. Simply curious.
I'd lived there in the past but things were not quite as bad as they are now, and I'm glad that all my immediate family are back in Canada, so that I don't even have a reason to go there for a visit. (Although many good friends of mine live there, they come to Canada if they want to see me.) In the past, I had travelled around the US extensively, so there's nothing left for me to see. Just as well.
I agree with everything you wrote. I posted my own blog entry a few weeks ago on the immigration topic because I was incredibly frustrated by all the Americans who have loud opinions about the immigration debate yet have absolutely no idea how the US immigration process works. If I read one more letter to the editor telling illegal immigrants to "take the time to fill out the proper immigration paperwork" I might gouge my eyes out with a melon baller.
I've also been somewhat hurt by off-the-cuff comments made about illegal immigrants by people I'm close to (not Flippy :-)). I'm a perfect example of someone who came to the US illegally because I had no avenue for legal immigration, yet no one seems to realize I'm proof that current immigration law is flawed and needs a serious overhaul. After many years of feeling that I finally fit in, the immigration issue has definitely made me feel like an outsider again.
annamarie's comment, "I'd lived there in the past but things were not quite as bad as they are now, and I'm glad that all my immediate family are back in Canada, so that I don't even have a reason to go there for a visit." kind of made me laugh. It's not like we're in a war-torn third world country. It's a pretty diverse place, the US, even in our current (Bush Admin) condition.
Sadly, I think hostility towards immigrants doesn't exist just in the US and is one of the cons to being an expat. I think Australia (where I now live) is very similar to the US in that it has isolated itself from the rest of the world in cultural understanding and as a consequence is afraid of what it doesn't understand.
I believe some of the hostility transpires from this fear and also fear of change. The masses are comfortable with society as they know it and some fear that immigration will bring only negative change. This fear breeds hostility and unfortunately it is far more widespread than the usual vocal few.
But in my experience, not everyone has treated me with hostility. And in fact, the longer I stay, the more welcoming people have become.
I don't have a clear understanding of what the rallies in the US are trying to achieve, but I'm not hopeful that the continuing rallies will soften US attitudes towards immigrants. Having said that, I would be more than happy to be proved wrong.
On a final note - yes, I have experienced hostility at times, but the pros of living in a foreign country - and the foreign country I live in - far outweigh any negative encounters I have experienced. Were the scale to tip in the other direction, at least I have the ability to go back home. Perhaps a luxury not many US immigrants have..
Paul, there are many blogs online written by Americans who moved to Canada and who have been thrilled at how welcomed they were made to feel. I've no doubt there's hostility towards the United States in Canada (it's like the class nerd mocking the football quarterback), but I can't imagine there's a national rush to harass individual Americans. Have you actually been just standing around, minding your own business, and had people say offensive things to you because you're American?
I'm curious because I grew up in a family which welcomed exchange students, loved meeting immigrant families to exchange recipes, etc. My family thinks immigrants are exciting -- my father in Ontario even makes his Mexican neighbours feel welcomed by flying the Mexican flag on his flag pole every Cinco de Mayo, and yes, he flies the American flag on the 4th of July.
Yeah for getting your soc # and finally getting an identity. I've been battling with this since 2002 and it is really hard. I'm waiting in Canada for an identity and yes it is hard. I'm not nearly there yet as there are people about 7 or 8 months ahead of me. But I do hope to be complete. For me, I've never encountered harsh words. I just try to fit in and never really allude to the fact that I'm different. It has helped me a lot as a result... As far as I can tell... But I'd agree, people in the US are extremely biased... unconsciously or subconsciously...