Christian Science Monitor Examines Immigration & Assimilation

In case you missed the Christian Science Monitor‘s series on immigration and assimilation, it’s well worth reading, because it puts a human face on immigration issues that all too often are debated in the abstract. The series delves into the complex terrain of immigrant identity – specifically, the ways newcomers navigate the path between old country and new in the process of becoming Americans. Though their roots are elsewhere, these immigrants are Americans by conviction, if not by birth, and their stories illustrate the depth of their commitment to this country – a sense of commitment bolstered by their appreciation of the freedom and opportunities they have here. A few cases in point:

  • Brenda Calderon, 24, who came here from Guatemala and became a star student and athlete, obtained U.S. citizenship, and is the first person in her family to graduate from college. She earned a BA in exercise and sports science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. [See Immigration and Assimilation: Soccer and Prom are Part of Her American-ness, by Leda Hartman, Christian Science Monitor, 07.Jul.2013.]
  • Kouei Siong, 31, is the son of ethnic Hmong farmers who fled Laos in the wake of the Vietnam War. After studying business administration at Fresno City College, Siong decided to return to farming, this time with entrepreneurial ambitions and the dream of making it big in agribusiness. “We’re not just Hmong people,” Siong told the Christian Science Monitor, “We’re actually HmongAmerican. We can fit in and talk to everyone now.” [See Immigration and Assimilation: After Dislocation, a Hmong Refugee Finds a Fit, by Ian Gordon, Christian Science Monitor, 07.Jul.2013.]

The stories stand in stark contrast to the distorted images of immigrants that have been propagated during the immigration reform debate – partly for political purposes, but party out of fear of the unknown. What these stories suggest is that perhaps – just perhaps – we’d all do well to relax a bit: the vast majority of immigrants are here because they share our values and want to be a part of this great nation – not simply take, but contribute in meaningful ways. Their personal narratives are a wonderful reminder of the strength and resiliency that immigrants bring, along with grit, determination, and raw ambition to succeed – the same things that generations of Americans learned from their immigrant forbears.

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