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The Immigrant Journey

Issue 23, May 12, 2019

As we continue along the Immigrant Journey, here is a selection of what caught my attention this week.

I begin with a Mother’s Day tribute.

CELEBRATING IMMIGRANTS

In Honor Of Immigrant Mothers. Growing up on Logan Avenue, there was an unspoken truth about the mothers living in our neighborhood. Writing in the Statesman, Virdiana Sanchez captures the essence.

“I love my mom because she is amazing. She takes care of me and my brother. She goes to our school to check on our grades. She always reminds us that we are immigrants and that we should do our best in school to show people that we are like anyone else in this country.”

“She’s strict but encouraging. When our grades drop, she tells us, “You don’t want to be washing bathrooms like I am; you want to do something great in your life.” I really like that about her — she motivates us to good. I appreciate everything she has ever done for me and my brother.”

Remember The Titans. On Friday, May 10, 2019, in an event organized by the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, thousands gathered to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad in Promontory, Utah.

More than 10,000 Chinese workers were employed by The Central Pacific Railroad, which built the western part of the railroad, constituting 90 percent of the company’s work force. In the two decades following the completion of the railroad, the Chinese railroad workers fanned out across the U.S. to help build and repair at least 71 other rail lines in the West, Northwest, Midwest, South, Southwest, and Northeast.

Yet, the Chinese workers were not welcomed in America.  After eight Chinese railway workers laid down the last rail, they, along with the hundreds of other Chinese workers, were not allowed to attend or partake in the public celebration of its completion. By playing an active role in the 150th anniversary, descendants of the railroad workers hope their ancestors’ labor is finally given its overdue recognition.  NBC News has joined with them and put together a thorough five-part series in hopes of helping to recover the erased history of the Chinese railroad workers.

By the way, May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. The month of May was chosen to honor the first Japanese immigration to the United States on May 7, 1843 and the  anniversary of the transcontinental railroad completion on May 10, 1869.

IMMIGRATION POLICY

What Would Dick Gregory Say Now? We all have mentors and persons who inspire us. Comedian turned civil rights activist and health enthusiast Dick Gregory was one of mine. During my freshman year of college, I saw him on stage for the first time. Challenging the audience to get high on life, not marijuana, he laid out his suspicions that the government was in cahoots with the drugs black market.

Since 1996, several states have decriminalized the medical and non-medical use of marijuana. Yet, a few weeks ago, on the eve of April 20, the global cannabis holiday, immigration officials issued a contrarian policy alert. Immigrants applying for naturalization who have consumed cannabis or worked in the cannabis industry, even in states where such actions are legal, will be barred from showing good moral character and denied citizenship. I wonder if this action would change Gregory’s view on the involvement of government players in the marijuana black market?

The Immigrant Genie Is Out Of The Bottle. According to the United Press International, recent Census Bureau data demonstrates that people moving from other countries made up almost half of the U.S. population growth in 2018. The nation added a little over two million people in 2018, of which 978,826 was attributed to international migration.

Following up on our Mother’s Day theme, a Pew Research Center report shows that the increase in U.S. births since 1970 has been largely driven by births to immigrant mothers. Since that time, the annual number of births to immigrant women tripled, whereas the number of births to U.S. born mothers has declined. Of all babies born in the United States, almost one-fourth (23%) are now the offspring of immigrant mothers.

Taken together, these studies illustrate the building of a border wall is a day late and a dollar short. As I believe the passage of time will prove, Trumpian-style xenophobia is on the losing side of history. In diversity, America will eventually trust.

HUMAN INTEREST

Meet The Mascogos, Early American Asylum Seekers. 170 years ago, 60 African American familes fled the United States to escape slavery and sought refuge in Mexico. They settled in a tiny village, Nacimento de los Negros, or Birth of the Blacks, in the desert of Coahuila, a Mexican state that borders Texas. Over time, the group’s culture dissipated, becoming more Mexican and migratory. They now speak Spanish, not English, and many are trying to head back to the U.S in search of work. As Kevin Sieff, writing for the Washington Post, explains, the Mascogos history offers a unique view into human migration, the way in which communities are pushed and pulled across borders.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading!

Until next week, stay focused, committed, and compassionate.

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