This material courtesy of Brenda Lachman
Since 9/11, anti-immigration sentiments not only have risen for obvious reasons, but they have really multiplied in the last couple of years. There are over seventeen anti-immigrant organizations, and their arguments for rejection of immigrants, amnesty or comprehensible immigration reform are often economic; stealing jobs, the heavy use of the welfare systems, overload of the education system and not paying their taxes. The national identity and unity forums complain about immigrants isolating themselves into their own communities, not replacing their culture of origin with the American way of life and refusing to learn the language. The environmentalists also have their share of complains, stating immigrants are consuming the scarce resources and overpopulating the country.
But how did America go from having an open border policy to a block-the-border course of action?
Have you ever had a relative or friend stay at your home for more than three days? Maybe this announced or unexpected guest helped by paying groceries but didn’t help out with the dishes after meals, or picking up around the house and yard but still used the home services such as electricity, water and TV, perhaps even borrowed the family car to run some errands, or didn’t respect the home rules or family schedules, or even worse, ate and then isolated herself inside the room to watch TV or listen to loud music not caring about sharing with your family, making you wonder when this guest would finally leave.
When visiting relatives or friends we should always make ourselves useful in every manner possible, not only by helping buy groceries but also with the chores around the house and most definitely abiding by the rules and schedule of the family we are visiting. The same principle applies when visiting another country whether invited or unexpected, either for a short period of time or for a more permanent stay.
It is widely known that most immigrants come to America to achieve among other things the American Dream, but the American Dream is not only about making money and sending it back home; that would be equivalent to breaking in a house, taking that family’s belongings and leaving. Neither it is buying a home with a white picket fence and locking inside it to continue living the life we ran away from. Life in the US is about hard work, yes, but also about taking advantage of the once in a lifetime opportunity of knowing and learning about the culture, mainly because the US has one of the richest mosaics of ideologies, traditions and foods in the world. Learning from the culture and embracing it won’t take away the identity of the native land, or the values brought inside our hearts, on the contrary, by becoming part of the melting pot, our ideologies, traditions and culture can be shared at the same time we learn from other immigrants and from native-born Americans as well.
The main priorities are learning the language, because this is the only way communication can take place, and learning the laws, which is important because many immigrants who end up in jail or get involved in legal problems do so because of ignorance of the laws in the US, and that can easily be avoided if every immigrant sets it as a goal to learn the language, the rules and the laws.
Volunteering in an organization or church of your choice is another way not only to make new friends but learn the culture we are part of, and practice English. While practicing the language and idiomatic expressions you can help by translating for other immigrants who have just arrived and are in the process of adapting themselves to the new culture.
Life in the US is about sharing, caring and working together. After 9/11, people of all origins were united by helping one another to cope with the pain and fear, helping on ground zero, and with the families in search of their relatives. But why wait for a catastrophe to become involved when you can do it now, today, and show with your attitude that you care and you are grateful to this great country.
Brenda Lachman was born and raised in Mexico, where she lived most of her life; she moved permanently to the US in February 2001. She has worked as a volunteer counselor in the Crisis Pregnancy Centers of Houston, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, and has taught English as a second language at Saint John Vianney Catholic Church in Houston.
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