The meme above was shared widely on social media a couple of years ago. The other day as I was thinking about immigrants and immigration reform, I remembered it. While the meme is about things, I began to think about all the people in my life who are immigrants. As I made the list, I started to laugh. It’s unlikely I could function without them.
My doctor is from Jamaica, my surgeon is from Greece, my hairdresser is from Albania.
I occasionally get my nails done by a woman from Vietnam; I buy fruit from a man from Albania.
The advisory board members on a project that I am responsible for at work are from Syria, Iran, Algeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, and the Azores. A consultant who also works with the project is from Somalia.
My colleagues are from Portugal, the Azores, Brazil, Haiti, and Malawi – and that’s only a few of them.
Daily I say hello to hotel employees from Guatemala, Haiti, and Egypt. The restaurant next to my work that sells excellent falafel and shwarma is owned by Iraqis.
My friends at church are from Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Lebanon.
Other regular friends in my life are from Pakistan, Israel, and Iran.
What’s more, my maternal grandfather who died many years ago is from Poland….
Everyone of these people contribute positively to their communities and to the workforce, a fact that validates what studies have shown – that immigration has a positive effect on both economic growth and productivity.
In 2004, a satirical film was released called A Day Without a Mexican. In the film, the state of California wakes up one day to a thick fog and no ability to communicate beyond its borders. They soon find out that one third of the state’s population is missing. What follows is a comedic look at how the California dream is only made possible by the Mexicans who serve in every capacity – from entertainment to politics to service industry. As California ceases to function effectively, those left have to face some hard questions.
While the film was produced over 13 years ago, its message is just as relevant today, perhaps more so.
Any nation has a right to have laws in place around immigration and resettlement, but border arrests and hardline approaches by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not helping. We are desperate for comprehensive immigration reform and these impulsive and poorly thought out actions are keeping us from pushing for a bipartisan approach that is wise and doable.
Worldwide, we are in a time of unprecedented displacement and crisis from war, famine, and political instability. It is more important than ever that our policies and borders reflect this and that our responses lean toward mercy. It is critical that our conversations are reasoned and based on fact.
“CIR (Comprehensive Immigration Reform) is caught between the politics of justice and the ethics of mercy.”
There is far more to think about and write about when it comes to immigration reform, and I am not the one to write comprehensively about it. But I do want to offer this challenge – think of the immigrants you know and how they contribute to your daily life. Then, write your own meme.
Because sometimes we need to open our eyes to what and who is around us.