Sunday, April 16, 2006

Letters to a young xenophobe

Columbia Journalism professor Sam Freedman has an editorial in the Jerusalem Post about the immigration debate in the US. Freedman is also the author of Letters to a Young Journalist, part of Perseus Books' Art of Mentoring series that includes Chris Hitchens' Letters to a Young Contrarian:
She never wanted to come to America. She only did it to make money, enough money to bring over her five brothers and sisters. She waited 16 years before bothering to become a citizen, and took the step mostly to avoid being deported.

She never learned more than a few words of English, not even after decades in her ambivalently adopted land. She shopped in stores where she could use her native tongue, and she read newspapers that were written in it, and she attended plays whose actors spoke it.


He lied his way into America. He hid any record of his prison sentence and his jailbreak. He snuck past the border guards by carrying a stolen passport and using a false name. After just a few years in the United States, he was in jail again, suspected of being part of a terrorist gang.

He never married his female companion, just shacked up and had children. He sired four of them, and for a while he did not even enroll them in public school. The eldest, a daughter, took up at 18 with a boyfriend, and naturally they, too, had a son out of wedlock.

We all know, we Americans in the midst of a vitriolic national debate about immigration, just how abominably newcomers to our country behave - the way they take jobs from our own people, the way they refuse to assimilate, the way they flout our moral values and our criminal laws.

I certainly know, because the two undesirable immigrants I've described to you happen to be my grandparents.