All posts tagged: Immigrant

This Is What the American Dream Actually Looks Like

Nancy’s father-in-law Boen Tong (Photo courtesy Nancy Davis Kho) My late father-in-law was an immigrant. He was also one of the most American guys I ever met — if you believe that what defines our national character is a willingness to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, a love of family and community, a thirst for knowledge and, of course, a really green lawn. Boen Tong — known as “Tong” or “BT” to his wife and friends, “Dad” and “Grandpa” to his kids and grandkids and “Tom” to the slightly deaf old Jewish ladies with whom he played bridge in his later years — was born in Indonesia in 1919. He spent his childhood working in the family batik business, pedaling his bike through the Javanese jungle to pick up the beautifully dyed cloth for which Indonesia is known. He spoke Malay and Javanese, but when his parents sent him to study at Dutch schools, Dutch became the first of four foreign languages in which he would eventually become fluent. By age 19, BT showed …

I Invited a Refugee Family Home to Dinner, and It Changed My Life

Sloane around the dinner table with her family and a Syrian refugee family at Thanksgiving (Photo courtesy Sloane Davidson) Over the course of the past election cycle, I was taken aback at the backlash against refugees. I also realized I didn’t personally know any refugees. I decided that if this was an important issue I was going to care about, I needed to better understand and know the refugee community. My family, if polled, would likely say I have never met a cause I didn’t support. I fell into working at a nonprofit in my early 20’s. I was unsettled and without a career path when a mentor suggested I would make a good fundraiser and offered me a job. I took her advice and flourished. I spent most of my career in a variety of nonprofit roles but took a sharp turn this past fall when I decided that I wanted to work directly with refugees. I started with a fairly basic understanding of refugees being people who were forced to flee their homes …

When The Only Trump Supporter You Know Is Your Dad

Yes, I’m still talking to him. Yes, I’ve heard the endless entreaties of “You should stop talking to him!” No, it’s not that easy. I’ve turned around, dissected and diagramed his reasons for voting the way he did, and I still don’t understand any of them. We share a gene pool, the same body type, the same skin and hair color and even the same missing adult incisors that never grew in. We share a similar sense of humor. But we don’t share the same political beliefs — particularly the belief that your vote should be cast to help advance the greater good, not just your own good. Fundamentally, aside from his support of the military, I believe that my dad voted for Trump because he wants to protect his financial assets. It took him a long time and a lot of physical labor to acquire them, and they’re not much, but they’re his. For that reason, to him, Trump was the best choice. Do I agree? No. He and I believe in very different …

I’m Canadian, And I Think It Might Be Time To Go Home

When you travel by rail between New York and Ontario, there’s a bridge over the Niagara River where the train, briefly, lies in mid-air between Canada and the U.S, the mist from Niagara Falls drifting toward the train windows, tantalizingly out of sight. On one side of the river, the Stars and Stripes flutters in the wind, on the other, Canada’s red maple leaf. It’s an odd feeling, every time, to hang suspended between my two nations, my two identities. They’re so close, but – especially now – so very far apart politically. Now that Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office, I wonder, daily, why, with a perfectly good, safe country to return to, I haven’t moved back home. A place where the nation’s best universities cost less than $10,000 a year, sometimes much less. Where single-payer government-run healthcare keeps millions of people healthy, whatever their age or employment status. Unlike many immigrants – who arrive fleeing weak economies, religious persecution, political strife, even war – I chose to leave Canada for the United …

A Stranger on the Road: A Syrian Woman Finds a New Home in Connecticut

It’s been a volatile time for refugees trying to get to America, especially since January 27 when Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. But the judicial system’s fast reversal of the ban created a window of opportunity — and something of a roller coaster ride — for refugees who had been previously cleared for entry. Syrian refugee Fradh Alfaawri and her four children rode that roller coaster last week. The back story: Alfaawri escaped war-torn Syria in 2013 after her husband died in police custody. The family lived in a Jordanian refugee camp for four years before they heard the good news: The U.S. would accept all five of them as refugees. But less than a week before they were to leave, Trump imposed his ban, leaving them stranded, “shocked and very, very sad,” Alfaawri told the press through an interpreter. And then another phone call: If the family could board a plane in three hours, they would, they were told, be admitted after all. Some days …

Scenes from a Visa Application Process

The man standing behind the counter said to us in his thick Indian accent “I’m sorry, but your visa won’t get approved.” Walking into the Abu Dhabi US Embassy was in itself intimidating. The place looks like a fortress. A massive culmination of stone that looks like an angular piece of rock jutting out of the sand. There are barriers up and Marines on guard. Past three separate check points was the consular services center. It was a dark modest room that had rows of chairs and our President and Vice President’s pictures hung on the wall. On the far side was a long counter spanning the whole length of the room. We made our way to a man behind the counter who gestured us over. I had met my husband years earlier, practically the moment I stepped foot in the Middle Eastern country I was going to call home. Since then, our lives became a whirlwind of change. Falling in love, new jobs, moving in together, my conversion to Islam, and getting married. We …

Margit’s Note: Yearning to Breathe Free

We were going to do an issue called Love for obvious (Happy Valentine’s Day!) reasons. But then, as the news about the Muslim ban, immigrants — both legal and illegal — being detained or deported, refugees trying to find a home here in the U.S. started pouring in, we felt we had to do an issue about Immigrants. Plus, embracing those that just want a chance at a better life? Now that’s love. As Americans, every one of us has an origin tale, how our ancestors came to live in America and the struggles they endured — whether it was last week or hundreds of years ago; whether it was native-born, by boat or by force.  It’s not always a joyous story; more often than not dire circumstance brought us here. Thanks to my genealogist mother, I’m lucky enough to know a bit about the first folks in my bloodline who made their way to America, with the sole intention of eventually creating me. Ok, ok, they had other reasons too. There was Mennonite Jacob Detweiler, who was sick …