Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration Reform: An Iraqi-American Perspective, Part I

I am sure you have heard on the news that the government wants to reform immigration. Some demonstrated in favor of the new measures, others were opposed (gotta love freedom to demonstrate).

Before I share my take, here is a little background on me and my experiences. My parents came to the US as students back in the mid-‘70s – paid for by the Iraqi government. Up until the 1990’s, that was really the only way Iraqis came to this country (well, there was also church-sponsored immigration of the Christian Chaldean population). Like many foreign students, their plan was to get educated and go back to their country – with yearly visits in between. On their last visit in 1981, things changed. The Saddam government started cracking down on religious people after the war with Iran broke out. My father’s youngest brother was thrown in jail simply for being a little more religious than “normal” (at the time, religion was falling apart in Iraq – women abandoned their modest dresses, there were bars and nightclubs everywhere).

My parents came back to the US, fleeing religious persecution and fear of being drafted for a war that ended up taking millions of lives on both sides (it was truly pointless and tragic). Their visas shortly expired, so they were living in fear of being deported. God answered their prayers when they were sponsored by a company on worker’s visas. A few years later, we all became naturalized citizen.

As for the Chaldeans, I cannot say that I know too much about them. From what I know, starting in the 1960s a church group started bringing Chaldeans from Iraq to live and work here in the US. At a time when Detroit was being evacuated, known as “white flight”, the Chaldeans seized on the opportunity to grow their community. They bought entire city blocks in Detroit where they would house Chaldean immigrants. In return, the Chaldeans would work, mainly in grocery stores, to pay their house debt off. They were also in charge of patrolling their neighborhood at a time where Detroit was considered to be a dangerous place (in the 1987 movie Robocop, Detroit is labeled Crime City). As they paid off their debt and established their own careers, they moved to higher class suburban neighborhoods such as Southfield and now West Bloomfield.

After the first Gulf War and the failed intifadha (uprising against Saddam), hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mainly from the south of Iraq, fled for their lives. A vast majority were simple people – farmers that have never lived in the city. Some fled to Syria or Iran. Others went to Saudi Arabia and were forced to live in refugee camps, known to many as the camps of Rafha. There, some spent years before being picked up by donor nations such as Australia, many European nations, and the US. Life in the Western world was very difficult for many. A decade later, these immigrants are still struggling to adjust – some would use the word “assimilate”.

Now that you have a little background on my and my experiences, continue to Part II to find out what I think of the current reforms being proposed:
Immigration Reform: An Iraqi-American Perspective, Part II


At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great site » » »


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