NYC 2010, Immigration

Posted By on July 6, 2010

Why do people immigrate?

Why do we leave everything we know to be our world to venture to the unknown?

Spending almost all of one’s savings to bring few valuables and start anew. My son asked me a similar question when we visited Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty. I asked myself the same questions growing up in New York. All I knew about them was that they worked day and night, traveling long distances, visiting (me) only sometimes.

As I toured the Museum, I learned about the strict screenings the government did to weed out the sick and disabled. The tests they administered to each immigrant, some quite humiliating to see if they would make the cut. Those who did not would be deported back to their country, leaving their family  behind in America. Those who passed the physical and mental tests, would be screened by life.

The Deportees

Some IQ Tests

Bunks where immigrants slept while awaiting their fate.

Stalkers would take advantage of new immigrants by charging them more for services, paying them less for their labor. Only time, or an occasional kind soul, would help teach the ways of the new world. But for the most part, many immigrants worked the most demeaning jobs, the most labor intensive and lowest pay with little to no benefits. Why do they do it?

My mom says America meant to her possibilities. The soil is rich here, and whatever seed she plants, there will be fruit and a harvest. But someone has to plant the seeds and toil the earth. That someone was her.

When I ask my parents about their first few years here, they would not talk about it much. All I have is what I can remember.

As I look back, I have many sad stories to tell.  However, I also remembered the feeling of love behind the shades of circumstance and words, but they were there. Like an underwater stream my roots had tapped into, though the surface above seemed, at the time, dry and barren.

Portraits of Immigrants

I have this lush garden because of my parent’s toil. Thank you mom and dad, for your daring to hope for a better tomorrow, courage to face the unknown and tenacity to survive.

Fruit

About The Author

I am a Chinese-American mother of three boys, parenting with the traditions worth keeping from the East and West. I continue to learn new ways of raising a family and myself.

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