It is time for more privileged immigrants in the US to stop seeing themselves as more deserving than others. For most immigrants in the United Statesthe year that has passed since President Donald Trump 's inauguration has been one in which their new country has become an increasingly frightening place to live.
Those of us who are visible as an "other" - having black or brown skin, bearing names that Im white and hookup a haitian man calling immigration we are Muslim or Hispanic, wearing clothing that mark us as somehow "different" - are repetitively evoked in both veiled and vulgar language in the president's public speeches, private policy meetings, and barrages of tweets. Americans are told, since childhood, that hard work and perseverance not only build character, but allow them to overcome obstacles, and achieve their goals and dreams.
Because this powerful myth is repetitively drummed into their heads - be it through apocryphal narratives of kids who came from impoverished backgrounds who went on to become multimillion-dollar earning athletes, or women who beat the odds and attained positions of leadership in fields dominated by men - they learn to believe that their country is a meritocracy. Anyone who has gone thorough the immigration process here knows that US immigration is not only class-based, but underhandedly racist, too: So it baffles me why legislators and pundits are suddenly calling on immigration reforms to reflect the desire for skilled workers, when it is clear, from even a cursory glance at H1B and Greencard application documents, that it is already so.
As an immigrant who was born in a small island in South Asia Sri Lanka and grew up in a Southern African country Zambiaand who now lives and teaches in the US, I make a point of incorporating my own narrative of immigration - the cost, the paperwork, the lawyers' fees, the networks of fellow immigrants who helped me, and the often difficult to identify factors and existing privileges in my personal history that allowed me to be a "successful" immigrant - into how I teach my global literature classes.
We all know this to be true, if we are recent immigrants to the US. But we become defensive against racism, and prefer to align ourselves with American rhetoric of being exceptional. And because US immigration policy already selects immigrants who come from privileged social class, caste, and educational backgrounds, this group is used to being seen as elite; certainly, these immigrants do not want to align Im white and hookup a haitian man calling immigration with workers in the service industries or the undocumented.
I was dismayed, but not surprised, therefore, by the defensive rhetoric used by my fellow immigrants when "Shithole-gate" hit the national and international fans.
On Twitter and Facebook, immigrants brought out the weaponry of respectability to prove that racists were wrong about them. Since Haiti and Africa were on the "shithole" list this time, they listed the exceptional African and Haitian immigrants who invented amazing things and discovered incredible surgical techniques that no doubt saved the lives of countless American racists who hated immigrants.
Others touted how so few immigrants, statistically, are involved in any crimes.
Articles, like this one in the LA Timesrushed to assure frightened Americans that while many are refugees, and "beneficiaries of the 'diversity visa programme' aimed at boosting immigration from underrepresented nations…African immigrants are better educated than people born in the US or the immigrant population as a whole".
Indeed, 41 percent of African residents in the US hold bachelor's degrees or higher. Nigerians, who have been singled out by the president on previous occasions, are among the most educated group in the US, with some 61 percent holding bachelor's degrees and 17 percent masters degrees.