The Incredible Legal Immigrants

Ellis Island ImmigrantsI am always fascinated by legal immigrants who left their loved ones and their homes behind, came to this country, and made America a special place unlike any other on earth. Their individual stories of true grit and endurance in the face of adversity gives our American citizens their unique character and cultural fabric.

I am not talking about the failed European multiculturalism model pushed by progressives to incorporate as many different ethnicities and religions as possible whether they fit in or not, including people who have broken the law or have given aid to our enemies. This societally disruptive and demographically suicidal model failed in Europe, it is certainly going to fail here.

I am also not talking about people who crossed the border illegally to benefit from the abundance and generosity of American welfare and who have no intention of assimilating into our culture. I am talking about legal immigrants who came here with all the right intentions.

Americans are unique because we borrowed the best traditions from so many ethnic groups but forged one amalgamated culture. While keeping the native language at home, legal immigrants of the last century have embraced their new country and learned English. A unified language gave our country its strength.

People like Dr. Pol, an incredible veterinarian who has cared for the health of his four-legged patients who cannot speak to tell what hurts them, and the hearts and farms of his two-legged customers. For 30 years he has seen all of 19,000 furry large and small patients; some are repeat accidents waiting to happen – their curiosity of exploration runs them smack into the quills of porcupines or traffic.

A healthy and enthusiastic man of 70 with an infectious demeanor and incredible positive outlook, Dr. Pol became a proud American citizen in 1976. A native of Netherlands, Dr. Jan Pol grew up on a farm with a one-room house and was the youngest child. He experienced hard work and the importance of laboring close to the land.

He can run circles around many twenty year olds with his constant energy. He does not love just what he does but he loves this country. He is so respected and celebrated in central Michigan and his vet practice so famous that they made a reality show about him, “The Incredible Dr. Pol.”

My friends who won the immigration lottery in their respective countries brought to America a lot of expertise: engineers, doctors, chemists, athletes, researchers, professors, computer specialists, and nurses. They did not work in their fields right away – they started rather small.

Doru ran a pizzeria at first despite his limited language skills. When he learned English well, he applied for a job in his field, mechanical engineering. He now runs an entire R & D department in the south.

My second cousin Mara, who left her loved ones behind when she won the immigration lottery, is a skilled mathematician who works for a famous company. She has a family and two lovely children.

My long-time friend Lula came from Egypt years ago and is now a tenured professor of psychology. We had lengthy discussions about her life in Egypt, how she had to flee the new regime after Sadat was assassinated, and United States’ prominent role in the world in advancing freedom. We marveled how tolerant and welcoming Americans were in spite of our differences. We were so anxious then to prove our mettle and earn our freedom by giving back to this wonderful society who welcomed us with open arms and gave us the opportunity to succeed.

My friend Samir from Lebanon became the cafeteria manager at the university where I taught while pursuing his doctoral degree in chemistry. We became friends when he took my class in order to satisfy a Master’s level requirement that he had not had. He worked very hard in spite of the fact that the heat in the room and the exhaustion from his regular job made him doze off in class sometimes.

I remember my first job in the U.S., working for minimum wage of $3.10 an hour. I was perhaps the most educated person in the office but the lowest on the payroll rung. I did not care, I was happy to have a job that allowed me to eat and have a roof over my head.

During college, I always held 3-4 different part-time jobs in order to fit my class schedule in the daily very hectic routine that extended through the middle of the night all week long. To top it off, I was pregnant with our first child. Nothing was going to deter me from reaching my fullest potential when I was in the land of opportunity. In Romania, only the children of communist party apparatchiks were allowed the chance to excel and have a good life.

Liberals are wrong, no matter how hard they demand social justice, economic, and academic equality. We can have equal opportunity but we cannot have equal outcomes, not even mandated by government fiat. Those in power will always have more and better, some people are more motivated than others, some work harder than others, some are more experienced than others, some are smarter than others, some are more talented than others, and some are luckier than others.

A couple I met from the former Czechoslovakia was brought to the U.S. through a Baptist Church mission trip. They claimed political asylum although the wife was eight months pregnant. It was scary for them at first since their English was quite limited. Using a mixture of German and Russian, we communicated until they established a home and learned English. I helped them with the baby, got them enrolled in school, and drove them around town. He is now the director of one of the largest planetariums in the country and a professional photographer. His wife runs a very successful business from home.

The most interesting story was that of my best friend Frieda who defected from East Germany during a short vacation to the U.S. There was no way she was going back to the hellhole life controlled by the Stasi, the secret police! She was given permission to stay on the condition that her friends would provide for her financially and she would not be a burden to our welfare system.

We proceeded to collect money for an apartment. I helped Frieda with clothes, a waitressing job in a local bar, found an apartment, and everything else that allowed her to function daily. When the apartment complex burned down, I found her another one. Her legal resident alien status changed several years later when she became an American citizen. Almost twenty-five years later, she is the vice-president of a chemical company. Her Economics degree, hard work, and the desire to succeed helped her achieve her dream. Interestingly enough, we studied Economics at the same college in Europe but our paths never crossed then.

During my thirty years of teaching, I helped many immigrants pro bono by translating their birth certificates, school transcripts, and other necessary documents. My phone number was on the speed dial at the local hospital when they needed me to translate surgical procedures they were performing on foreign nationals who were either new to the area or were passing through. This was my way of paying it forward in hopes that these people would become good Americans, building our country up and not tearing it down.

But all these stories pale in comparison to the sagas of the initial legal immigrants holding satchels with their earthly belonging who had to pass through Ellis Island after the arduous Atlantic crossing, were quarantined, some assigned new names and new spellings by careless clerks, and were given or denied permission to enter the New World. These were the true pioneers who battled hardships, life and death situations, insecurity, the unknown, lawlessness, prejudice, abuse, interment, and unforgiving conditions, yet they prevailed, thanking God for their good fortune and their freedom.

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