We are seeing a tide of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe. In this country the problem is considerably less severe; however, in a number of conservative quarters immigrants are blamed, against the evidence, for a variety of ills ranging from loss of jobs for natives to the increase of crime. I will not refute this nonsense today; others have done it much better than I could. Instead, I’d like to share the profiles of some of the immigrants I know.
When I lived in Arizona Antonio would mow my lawn. Bettina and I would go to Guadalupe, an impoverished immigrant community near Tempe, and would pick him up. We talked a lot. He had left his family in Hermosillo and was doing garden jobs to save enough money to bring them to the United States and start their own gardening business. I don’t know if he made it.
Evelyn is our cleaning lady here in Tallahassee. She and her family came from El Salvador, undocumented, many years ago. With great effort she and her husband, a construction worker, raised their family, bought a home in Quincy, and sent their daughter to Florida State.
Murat is my colleague at FSU Law School. A native of Turkey, he studied in Istanbul and went on to earn his JD and PhD from George Mason. He is a rising star in law and economics and a marvelous, outgoing colleague.
Our dry cleaners are a married couple from India. They run their shop a few blocks from here. Their elder daughter just got married. I have never seen them be anything but friendly, smiling, and welcoming.
José is one of our graduates; I had him for my international law class. His parents came from Mexico as undocumented field workers. Because of that, José was initially denied admission to the Florida bar. One of my colleagues took his case to the courts, prevailing in the end.
Jeremy, too, was my student. His family came from from Haiti on a refugee boat. Jeremy aced my jurisprudence exam, graduated at the top, and went on to practice law.
John was my son’s schoolmate at McClintock High, in Tempe. His family had fled the Iranian revolution in 1979. They had to leave because they practiced the Zoroastrian faith, one of the many religions persecuted by the ayatollahs. John is a graduate of the University of Michigan and lives in Alaska.
In Stuttgart, a few years ago, Bettina introduced me to Ilknur and her family, all Muslim Turks. They had flourished there, working for Mercedes and Bosch. They are among the most generous, likable people I’ve met.
These are the immigrants I know. The list could fill many, many more pages.