An Immigrant’s Allegory of Running

The morning chill threatens to frost my lungs as I cut a  steady path through the tree line. Defiantly, I ignore the plea from my feet as they will themselves to stop.  I am reminded of how many challenges I have had to overcome to be where I am today. Like when I left my birth country 12 years ago  to go to school and didn’t know what I would find on the other side of the world. How I had to remind myself all would be well even if I didn’t know when I would see my parents next.

kenyans. beating ass.

No that's not me.. Its what I wish I looked like when I run

Looking around when I run, I am reminded I am just a piece in the puzzle of the big picture of life.  Awed by the raw beauty of tall pines towering over me, I find myself marveling at just how small I am and how much I really don’t have control over things. I know as I run that there is a bigger hand at work.

The pitter patter of my rubber soles as they have a personal conversation with the paved trail drum a rhythm on the blacktop. The ebb and flow of the rhythm is a direct reflection of the highs and lows of my life. Times when I have been pleased with how things are going like when I finally went back to see my parents after 10 years and lows like when I lost my job or that late night..uhh…. ‘conversation’ I once had with the boys in blue.

Excruciating pain from complaining muscles cut through my senses and for a moment all I can do is be with the pain until it is gone. Just like I had to somehow exist within the uncertainty that is life as an immigrant. When I didn’t know how I would pay for my rent, or school fees. When the fast talking accents of the deep south seemed to spew out a garbled array of sound that passed for English. As I forced my tongue to lighten and my mouth to ‘enunciate’ so I could be heard.  Struggling at first, and accepting finally that the different me would ultimately have to do. In the pain of running, I am reminded every time- that everything passes. Instead of resisting, I embrace it. I know it’s here for a while and it too shall pass. So I push on and after a while it’s gone and I am back to the place when I began, where I was hopeful yet uncertain. I am back to the beginning when I was full of dreams and I am convinced that I will continue trying and pushing on.

When I run, I am reminded of how human I am. It’s my way of getting in touch with my weaknesses and my strengths. Through running, I am reminded that I am on a journey. I am only a small piece of a bigger picture. That as everything comes to pass, I too will be gone one day and I can only participate as much or as little as I can.

 

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North Carolina House Meeting on Immigration Reform: Making Room for Change

A special House meeting was held on Wednesday January 25th, 2012 on how to deal with the ‘immigration problem’ in North Carolina. Discussions hovered around how to get to the heart of the problem which seemed to be illegal employment. It seems the problem is how to go about enforcing immigration reforms which won’t hurt the North Carolina Economy as is the case with the Arizona reforms.

Illegal Immigrant rights protest in the US/Mex...

Latino Protesters

Immigration reforms trigger ‘immigrant flight’.   Distribution of immigrants across North Carolina is somewhat blurred but it is obvious that Hispanic Immigrants (the largest immigrant population) favor rural areas. Immigration reforms will most certainly impact the agricultural sector.  Prompted by economic opportunities and policy mandates, ‘Immigrant flight’ has not to do with choice but more to do with survival. As more stringent immigration policies are considered and passed, immigrants will be forced to move to friendlier territories where they can enjoy economic opportunities.

After the meeting, a group of people held a rally outside the Legislative building protesting the immigration reforms being considered. It will be interesting to see how North Carolina approaches the immigrant question. Sweeping reforms could lead to a mass exodus of immigrants the impact of which might be severe on the North Carolina economy. For now it seems, North Carolina is carefully watching what happens in Arizona before jumping in and adopting similar reforms.

Draconian Immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia receive mute reaction

Immigrant.March.WDC.7sep06

Latina Immigrants demonstrating in March

The word ‘Mute’ has been redefined by the GOP lately.  Each one of the candidates skittering around a host of issues except the huge elephant in the room that is currently affecting desperate families; Immigration Reform Laws.

GOP candidates ranted on about various economic packages claiming to hold the solution  to the current unemployment crisis; I waited in vain to hear what if anything any of the candidates would say about the ongoing drama unfolding in Alabama and Georgia. Mute!  Complete and utter avoidance of anything in regard to the current immigration laws being enforced in Alabama and Georgia.  2000 kids did not show up to school in Monday morning. Nothing was addressed about that. Families preparing for the worst and asking neighbors to take care of their loved ones should they suddenly be arrested and again, Nothing. Nary a word on this was mentioned last night in the GOP debate. Not even a hint or insinuation in reference to this topic.

Is this a reflection of times to come? Have we perfected the art of ignoring that which does not directly affect us. Staying mute on matters that might be too complicated for our short attention spans.  Saying nothing. Doing nothing. It is becoming an all too familiar phenomenon. There are signs however that there are those among us who are noticing this and are simply fed up. These are the men and women demonstrating in a fashion reminiscent of the civil right movement outside Wall Street.

Perhaps it’s time we shamed our leadership into doing the jobs they are elected to do. The main problem is that most are thinking that a lot of responsible people are somewhere trying to resolve their problems. Gandhi said it best, ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’ If you want change, if you see something wrong, you should get up and be the change.

The GOP candidates conspicuously avoided the immigration question and it is no surprise then that very little of what is going on in Alabama and Georgia is being highlighted.

The Newtonian principal, every action has an equal and opposite reaction definitely rings true here. For every action taken to displace families the reaction will definitely be experienced in the communities.  Food prices will be affected due to lack of laborers. Families will be separated due to arrests and deportation. What will happen to the children once the families are separated? Tax payers-You-will realize you have to house all those immigrants you have arrested and then you will complain. Small businesses will be affected due to loss of customer base, which in turn will contribute to the rise in unemployment.

Why is insistence on the myopic perspective in regard to Immigration?

OMG! WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Immigrants weathering the storm of tough immigration legislation

Immigrants entering the United States through ...

Ellis island Immigrants entering the United States

There is a shell-shocked quality to all the frenzy surrounding tough immigration reform laws. It’s as though America has woken up from one long dream to find a wretched economy where only the citizens are suffering but oddly enough, immigrants are quietly going about managing their businesses and jobs. It’s as though the scales have finally fallen and bewilderment has set in, unable to fathom why immigrants are starting and running businesses while citizens are lining up in unemployment lines.

Immigrants, whether legal or illegal know they don’t have the luxury of time when they get to the United States. They either have to accelerate their academic goals, start a business or obtain employment because they often have to support family members both here and at home. This is clearly evidenced by  a Small Business Research Study, that showed that small businesses owned by immigrants were responsible for $67 billion in income. Immigrants own 11.2 percent of all businesses in the country and these businesses range from low skilled jobs to highly skilled jobs.

Despite any and all adversity coming their way, immigrants know they have one thing they can do that no one can take away, and that is Work, Work Work. This simple philosophy however is about to be tested as jobless Americans try to grapple with the harsh realities of an ailing economy.

Following the economic crisis, the who can we blame for our lack of jobs immigration reform has made it once again to the top of America’s to do list.  A string of tough immigration reform laws led by first Arizona Georgia and most recently Alabama, tough measures are being implemented to stem the flow of immigrants working illegally in the country. The toughest measures yet are to take effect soon due to the latest Alabama immigration law signed by Governor Robert Bentley which is due to take effect on September 1 making  it illegal for a US citizen to give a ride to an undocumented worker. As though it weren’t enough for illegal immigrants to be arrested at home, at work, on the road and basically anywhere, it makes it also illegal for a US Citizen to house an undocumented worker.

For working  immigrants who own businesses or go to school, these laws hit close to home because most immigrants reside or run businesses in areas inhabited by other immigrants of the same culture. The tension is ostensibly felt in any given immigrant community when one of their own is arrested. In the moments when an illegal immigrant is arrested, immigrants, typically from the same country of origin, pull together in a manner that is very much collectivist and get to work to solve as much of the new problem as they can. This usually takes the form of marshaling resources in the form of securing legal representation or taking care of families of those detained.

This collectivist approach that has served to help immigrants start businesses and go to school may actually come in handy during this period of hostility following the harsh laws being enacted. The storm of immigration reform is bound to get worse before it gets better. In the quiet manner that is very immigrant-esque, and very much in the immigrant tradition that is all American; Immigrants will continue to adapt, quietly working hard and finding ways to educate and support each other.

One can’t help but wonder what will be left in the wake of this recent storm. Will anti-immigrant sentiment spread and create a hostile environment to what has mostly been a homogeneous and tolerant society here in America? Or will immigrants become more insular, only hiring other immigrants and essentially cutting out other groups from job opportunities? If churches and schools are now breaking the law when they house and feed immigrants, does that mean there will now be more people out in the streets? It will be interesting at best to watch the effects of the tough measures being passed on what is already the changing face of America.

Diaspora Remittance-Why Its All Worth It in the End

Remittance services in London

remittances One Way to Make it all Worth it.

 

Any  

member of Diaspora has at one time or another wondered whether it is all worth it. The challenges of  immigrating to a foreign country and having to figure out the inner workings of a new society can break down even the most resilient of people. To compound an already Augean endeavor, members of Diaspora often have to support family members back home who depend on them for their livelihood.  And even when members of Diaspora send money home, most,  rarely see the long term sustainable results of their contributions.

Oft-times the urge to pack it in and go back to the familiarity of their homelands bubbles to the surface  tempting members of Diaspora to pack it in (and some do give in and go back to their countries of origin).  Most immigrants however, quell this urge, trudging on, working, assimilating into their new environs (some not so successfully)  all the while  supporting families back home while trying to mesh out a comfortable life in unfamiliar communities.

Members of Diaspora account for billions of dollars moving instantly across the globe, changing lives and sustaining entire societies. Without members of Diaspora, there are some communities that would not be in existence today.  Members of Diaspora overcome great obstacles to fit into whatever society they immigrate to. It is therefore some measure of comfort to know that even though a member of Diaspora might not witness tangible evidence of their contributions; it is quite obvious that without members of Diaspora, some communities would not be what they are today.

Empirical proof collected by the World Bank over a span of 10 years showed Diaspora contribution to economies around the world. For example, the United States Diaspora alone and which has the largest number of immigrants was responsible for sending out a staggering $48 billion in 2010 alone.

India, the world’s largest and fastest growing developing country was the receiver of the lion’s share of remittance monies receiving $55 billion last year alone.  The migration of Diaspora around the world, and the circumstances leading to the emigration often result in the kinds of contributions Diaspora can make in the world.

For example, the countries with the largest numbers of  Diaspora leaving their countries and possessing tertiary education often translates to the largest amount of remittances sent back to their countries of origin.  Looking at India again we see this is true. In 2000, India had 20.3 thousand Physicians migrate to countries around the world which therefore means that the high Physician incomes resulted in the larger number of remittances sent back to India.

 

On the contrary, Diaspora emigrating as refugees will send the least amounts of remittances back to their countries of origin. Not only do these Diaspora have to contend with bridging the education gap of having been in refugee camps, but often have to first work through the trauma of conditions leading them to seek refuge in other countries. These members of Diaspora have the most difficult experiences of transitioning into their new society and naturally have the least amount of remittances sent to their countries of origin.

Members of Diaspora therefore have much to offer the world. They are global citizens who give up everything they know to pursue a better life. And even though they face challenges transitioning into their environment, often will find ways to contribute to their countries of origin.

For a full viewing of the Remittances Fact Book go to www.worldbank.org