Dear all, Here is my first draft of my assignment. A big shout out to my mentor who has helped me to get to the heart of this difficult issue for me. She has been truly amazing! I hope you all like it. Please send on your thoughts, comments and feedback. Is there something you'd like to see added? Is there enough news story, facts or figures? Does it matter that there isn't really a solution? Thanks so much,
Letters From America There are so many of us, foreign-born immigrants, gracing the streets of this idealistic land of the free. I never planned to be one of them. Somehow I ended up here, struggling to get ahead, to pave a better life for my family and for myself, all the while wondering if I should keep looking for the road back home. We came here for only a year, at first; to enrich both our lives and our resumes, before returning to our homeland to start the life we’d always dreamed of. Of course we were young and daft and giddy then, in those days before we realized plans almost never work out as expected.
“Dear Mum, It has been eleven years now since I left England to come to New York. You encouraged me to come here. You brought me up to chase my dreams, to live my passions and love my life. When he moved across the ocean, there was no question in your heart that I should follow. You helped me raise the money for my ticket and you helped me pack my bags. Many years later, you told me how you waited on the observation deck at the airport for one last chance to wave goodbye as my plane disappeared into cloud. You said you felt pulled as the plane made its ascent, as if the thread that bound us together as mother and daughter stretched across the Atlantic Ocean… ”
A greener pasture As I flew over Long Island into New York, the clouds gave way to vast areas of land stretched out below me. I could see the sea. A road. Some train tracks and acres of open green land. This was nothing like I could ever have imagined. There was so much… space. The airplane took a gentle swerve to the right. My stomach churned. Then I saw a wall of buildings, their hundred and thousands of windows all tinted orange with a setting sun. I was circling over Manhattan. My veins pumped with the terror and excitement of being here. I thought of all the other’s who’d come here before me, all greeted by Lady Liberty as they huddled in lines at Ellis Island in the old harbor of New York. I saw her too, waving hello from her home in the sea as I braced myself to land.
It is amazing here in New York City, in the United States of America, whatever else you may have heard. I never realized how hungry I had always been until I moved here and began to eat to my fill. The dinners were huge, too huge for an appetite trained to be small from childhood. But food was never wasted. Everything I couldn’t eat in one sitting was saved for another meal later in the day. My skin lapped up the sunshine it had been craving for years and opportunities to get ahead greeted me at every turn.
The lure of employment, better salaries, better experience and a better lifestyle attracts one in four immigrants with degrees and higher education onto this land. Others come as students, as laborers, refugees and wanderers. Whatever the reasons for our presence, almost all of us come for a better life in one shape or another.
“Dear Mum, As a result of the declining lack of infrastructure and means to practice our profession, we left home and came to America with the hope of taking our career to the next level. To some extent, we have been able to achieve this dream. However, it has been tougher than envisaged, as it can be lonely and we have to get used to new food and the cold weather. Certain people have negative preconceptions about immigrants and I worry about us facing discrimination and hope my children will develop to their full potential. It is nice here and with commitment and diligence everyone has a fair chance of succeeding. Eventually, I hope to come back home. I miss my family and friends and as the saying goes “Be it so humble, there is no place like home”. Love you loads. Your Daughter, Foluke, Bronx, New York and of Nigeria.”
New York City is unlike any other place in the world. There is nowhere filled with quite as many dreams, or as many nations. On my street there are people from Venezuela and Italy, Israel, Ireland, Germany, Russia and Yugoslavia, India, China and North Korea. I love being one tiny drop in an ocean of people from all over the world. The air is thick with all our dreams, in this new city of the world. With no glass ceiling preventing our rise to success, no ethnic majority dominating the streets, anyone can be anything here. At least that’s the way it seems.
Beginning a new life It takes time to begin a new life here, to get social security cards, bank accounts, to find housing. For those of us who come here with little money in our pockets, the temptation to work illegally to pay cash for food and lodging presents itself everywhere, at least in the beginning. Landlords cramp tenants into tight spaces and want cash to avoid paying taxes. Employers take advantage of desperate new immigrants with low wages and few benefits knowing that if their workers don’t like it, they will easily find another one to take their place. On the plus side, depending on your point of view and sense of pride, well-intentioned neighbors and colleagues may give away their old furniture, old clothes and old cooking utensils to help others like you get a step ahead, for they were new here one time too.
Throughout history, immigrants have come to America bringing their skills with them looking for work. In 1890 it was farm laborers and miners from Europe who flocked to this country. Today, the global recession squeezes the best minds and talents out of the rest of the world to seek jobs in research, Information Technology and other skilled professions. For some who come here, a need to redefine success may become important, as doctors and lawyers without American licenses find new work as nurses and assistants instead. For those who come here on dependent visas the inability to work at all may cause feelings of isolation, heightened of course by the sheer distance of being far from the family and friends who know and love us so well in our home countries. Motherhood in this environment is a great challenge. Half of all the mothers giving birth in New York hospitals are foreign born. Away from the welcoming female lineage and support system most women take for granted on their journey into new motherhood, we each fight back the wish to share our joy with our own families by our side.
In New York City, there are nearly three million immigrants swallowing their pride and heartbreak as they brave a new life in this country called America. I’m not sure if I dare to consider myself one of them yet. To do so means making the commitment to stay.
“Dear Mummy and Papa, I want to start by saying that I love you immensely. It was a hard decision for everyone, 12 yrs ago, to send me to the US to pursue my MS. I cannot express what a great journey it has been since then. The experiences of living in a First World country have exposed me to possibilities and opportunities that might have not been achievable back home. 12 years later, armored with a MS from the States, a husband and 2 kids, I am in a place in my life, where I am contemplating returning back to my family and home country, India. As my kids are growing, I want them in close proximity with you and the rest of the family so that strong foundation and values are ingrained in them. They can choose to return to the States once they grow up. It is country that I have gotten to love... especially Manhattan, where I have spent the better half of my time here. Much love and thankful, Mamta, Queens, New York, and of Mumbai/Bombay, India”
To stay or to go Sadly, there seems to be an ongoing guilt that frequently comes with leaving our countries. Even if we came here to escape political persecution, genocide, war, poverty or disease, the guilt at leaving others behind never seems to fade. Family members may never understand why being in America, for work or freedom is better than being with them. The pull back home to be with those who know us best is ever strong.
It is no surprise to immigration officials and governmental bodies alike that the greatest reason for immigration is kin. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, even children migrate to this country to be with the family member who first came here. Some of them have taken months if not years to find their way here, cutting their way through bureaucratic red tape in their home countries as well as in America. The story is not much different in other countries across the world, as all nations struggle with border control and immigration policy. From one country to another, nations know they must allow family members to be together while limiting the total number of immigrants to a manageable statistic.
As population gaps are left in their wake, new migrants from other lands move in to take their place. The map of migration continually moves, as waves of ethnicity traverse continents in search of work, in search of new life, in search of belonging.
“…I have been here so long now living my life as if straddling the ocean with one foot in America and one foot in my homeland. You know how much we’ve tried to come back, all the jobs we applied for and didn’t get, all the times we thought of returning without any job to go to at all. It turned out that life had other plans for us. I love New York. I’ve lived here now in this tiny corner of the world for more years than I have lived anywhere else. This is where I became myself, where I became a wife and a mother, where I made my family and where I discovered how very much you all mean to me. Strangely, it’s the distance in miles between us that brought us closer to each other than ever before. I am grateful for that and I am so very grateful to you for your unending support and understanding of my need to be here, at least for now. This is my home, because this is where I am. I love you Mum, so very much. I hope we can be nearer to each other again some day. Your daughter, Tina, Bronx, New York, and of Yorkshire, England.”