What do immigrants really want?

Gerald Zezas

I've recently been thinking about what it would take for me to leave my country to go somewhere else. I've wondered what it would take for me to give up everything I own, everyone I know, my family, the familiarity I have with my surroundings, etc.

It would be a tough thing for me to do, even though I have the privilege of belonging to a race that will likely be welcomed in most places in the world, even though I have the privilege of the means to drive or fly there. To come in the front door. To not be rejected out-of-hand due to my skin color. To not be assumed to be entering that country for the sake of taking something from those who were born there.

With all that going for me, I'm still here. Not because I think America is the only place in the world where I could live peacefully. It isn't. Not because America is the only democracy in the world, it isn't. Not because America is the safest country in the world. Or has the best health care. Or the longest lifespan. Or the most honest politicians. It isn't, and it's not. I stay here because this is my home.

Now, imagine if you take away all the privileges I've listed above. The privilege to be welcomed. The means to enter legally through the front door. The privilege that assumes that I have something to offer the new country.

Imagine if, before leaving, I know that I will be rejected for my skin color, assumed to be stealing someone's job. Imagine if I already know that I've got to walk, along with my family, through miles of deserts with little food or water. It is knowing that after traveling for days in the hot sun that I might be caught and sent back. Knowing that I, or my family, could die trying.

And yet, I still came.

If some of us would try to imagine the love that these people must have for what we, in America, offer. Imagine what courage it takes for someone to make that journey, knowing that he might be sent back. Or, even if he makes it, knowing that he will be hiding from the law, hated for his nationality, ridiculed as lazy and only wanting something for nothing, like welfare or food stamps.

How many natural-born Americans would go to those extremes to be Americans? Immigrants, both legal and illegal, apparently love America so much that rather than ridicule them, we should be throwing them lifelines when they wash up onshore. Or border patrols should be searching for them to help them cross, rather than turn them away. We should have provisions for them to come and do the jobs that Americans have repeatedly proven that they don't want to do and thank them for it.

If you think about how much you must want to be in a country for you to risk your future at best or your life at worst, then you understand that many of these immigrants are the ultimate American patriots-and we should be welcoming them.

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