2009-08-07 / Letters

Defending Illegal Immigrants

Dear Editor,

I am a proud first generation American born citizen. However, I am also proud of my immigrant ancestry. The United States of America has been built, and continues to be built, by the sweat of immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Here is a reality check for my fellow Americans, especially Ms. Colleen Doherty.

When I was in the 3rd grade my grandmother had just returned from a vacation to Peru. This was also the year when many Cubans fled from Cuba, settling in the United States as well as other countries, like Peru. Many Americans, including myself, were upset and openly expressed their annoyance that these newly arrived immigrants were coming into the United States.

I remember asking my grandmother if she didn't feel annoyed returning to her native Peru to find it being invaded by foreigners (Cubans). My grandmother's response is one I'll never forget. She replied, "No. Remember, I came to the United States as a foreigner. Americans welcomed me and " your mother into their country. Just like the U.S. opened its doors to us, so we must open our doors to others." The words were so profound and humbling. Whenever I find myself becoming consumed with arrogance I reflect on them and am reminded that I am a United States-born American citizen because someone opened the doors to my ancestors!

I also remember when I was in grade school learning about the potato famine. I learned that the newly arrived Irish immigrants were harshly discriminated against. The discrimination was so profound that newspapers actually had job advertisements that would read, "Irish need not apply." The truth is, throughout history every generation blames the next set of newly arrived immigrants for the problems in the U.S.

I call on my fellow first, second, third, fourth, etc., generations of American citizens to stop blaming immigrants, both documented and undocumented, for the problems of the U.S. We Americans cannot demand of others what we can't do for ourselves!

I think my fellow Americans need to visit Monroe County in Upstate New York. There is a little town called Kiryas Joel which, according to the 2008 U.S. census, is the poorest village in our nation. The residents have a high rate of Medicaid and Food Stamp utilization because they tend to have large families, usually 8-10 children. Due to large family size they also live in condominiums and houses that are funded by section 8! Did I mention that the residents of Kiryas Joel are not illegal immigrants or minorities?

The reality is, our government has many programs that all Americans are entitled to when we fall on hard times. Thank God, I'm currently living the American dream and I have a decent education, gainful employment and a home. But there was a time when I myself fell on hard times and had to rely on our government for a while. Therefore I can't and won't be judgmental of those who use government programs or generalize a whole group of people! There are all kinds of individuals who receive public assistance. As Far Rockaway residents who live in a coastal area we are all subject to becoming victims of devastation and falling on hard times and government dependency.

I leave you with the following reality checks: First of all, illegal immigrants are not eligible for Public Assistance. As a matter of fact, many documented legal residents aren't even entitled to these services! In order to receive many government services you need to become a United States citizen. When you do have illegal immigrants receiving benefits (SSI/SSD) using a deceased person's social security number, how do the illegal immigrants get social security numbers? The answer, my friends, is from fellow U.S. citizens who sell their relatives' social security numbers!

And lastly, before we criticize illegal immigrants for not knowing English, we need to think about our fellow Americans who don't know English! We have many American children who graduate from high school who can barely write. Many illiterate American children are not children of immigrants!

LEE CORDOVA

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