Seems like unless we are native to Paumanok, we have immigrated to what is now called Long Island.
My grandparents on my mother’s side arrived to New York from Ireland in 1913, escaping from labor disputes, violence and a fallen economy due to English colonization. My great-grandparents on my father’s side arrived in the 1800s, reportedly escaping the potato famine; the “Great Hunger” killed about 1 million people and sent many survivors off to new lands in hopes that they could be saved.
As did millions of immigrants, my mother’s parents dispersed to the outer boroughs of New York during the Great Depression. They moved to Queens after closing their Upper West Side market. Elmhurst was a melting pot of Italian, Irish, Polish, German and Jewish refugees from Europe. I also had friends from Iran, Pakistan, Haiti and Puerto Rico.
Growing up there in the 1960s, many of my friends’ parents spoke little English. In those days, the fathers worked and the mothers stayed home, raising the children. It was idyllic, and I’ll always be grateful for the rich cultural experiences I had in my upbringing.
Sure, there were the xenophobic people like William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting, who despised people from other countries, but we all found our way, made our places and, except for a few whose main job was to keep the local pub doors open, contributed to community and society.
But there was a clear path to entering and working in the U.S. in those days: arrive, register at Ellis Island or other ports of entry, be given your papers (and maybe a uniform and a gun and be sent off to battle, like my grandfather Joseph McNamara was in 1913).
Today, our immigration system is broken and doesn’t provide for a clear path to residency or citizenship for the millions of people escaping economic disaster, violence, famine or climate change around the world. Human trafficking schemes, exploitive employers here in the U.S. and elected officials have turned immigration into a political soccer ball.
And the same people who cry about those who may be here without proper documentation are oftentimes first in line to exploit them by paying less than fair wages under the table.
We can fix this, not by human trafficking people around the country, but by providing a clear path for them to become documented residents and citizens of our communities.
One fine body…