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When is an Immigrant a Good Immigrant?

Updated on June 6, 2016

Seen And Unseen

Immigrants galore,

they come in droves, seen, unseen.

What do we get then?

There are different kinds of charity....

Looking back....and ahead:

That America has thousands of immigrants every year is a given. What defines a good immigrant as compared with a "not so good" immigrant? Here are some specific examples from the past.

When the "Boat People" as they were called were allowed to come to America after fleeing fallen South Vietnam and were joined by other immgrants fleeing to the United States from oppression and dangers around the world, they included not only the Vietnamese, but also Haitians, Czechs, Russians, and others in one of America's largest influx of immigrants since the Irish potato famine.

The "medically needy" refugees were taken under the wings of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) which got them the help they needed, but also treated them significantly differently than some of the other charitable groups working with the other refugee immigrants.

IRC, once the medical problems had been dealt with, worked hard to integrate its refugees successfully into American society by expecting them to work 4-5 hours a day and study English 2-3 hours a day, during which time IRC in return provided basic support.

In some cases that meant that a refugee who was a doctor in Haiti might find himself working at a dry cleaner's for part of the day and then attending an English As A Second Language (ESL) class in the evening, while settling in to a new neighborhood and new way of life for himself and his family.

The IRC system worked. But it didn't work for everyone.

Some immigrants were stubborn, expecially when they heard that other relief agencies and groups didn't have such requirements.

In some of those cases, refugees quickly left IRC sponbsorship and went elsewhere. some went to Utah, where the LDS church's outstanding welfare program seemed "an easier touch." Others went to Utah and California, collecting welfare from the churches in Utah, including Catholic services, and once a month traveling to California to collect welfare there. For a time, some were even receiving one welfare check from Utah and a second monthly check from California!

The difference in the long run between the IRC approach and the more relaxed process of some other charitable groups was striking.

Those who stayed with the IRC program learned English on their part time jobs, and in their ESLclasses. Their case workers kept tabs on them and did everything possible to help them cope with the hurdles of integrating into American life.

In the end, those who had discipline and structure in their integration process did quite well.

On the other hand, those who started their American lives with easy handouts and no structure fared less well.

There are storybook cases on either end of the spectrum. You may have heard them. Here is another: One refugee developed a business "on the side" roasting pig and selling the resulting pork to ready customers in Utah and traveling once a month to California where he drew regular checks from the State of California on an accepted claim that he was severely disabled.

Now that many of the refugees and immigrants from the time of the Boat People are seniors and ready to retire, the immigrants who chose to scam the system or work for pay given them "under the table" are finding that not having worked legally and contributed to Social Security is leaving them where they first chose to be: on their own resources and charity.

Those others who were guided into productive lives with the guidance of the IRC are ready to retire, too. The differences between the two groups could have been predicted, and were.

Those who chose to live by the sweat of their brow, to learn English from their part time jobs and from their ESL classes, and who lived legally within the system that offers the American dream, now treasure their successful American citizenship.

Those who thought the American dream was going to be a gift showered upon them while requiring no personal effort on their part, have found the Americqn dream an illusion. For many of them, their present circumstances are little better than they were when they first arrived.

On the other hand, the children from both groups have had the opportunity to make their own choices. Their lives are also reflecting the choices they have made.

Hands On has some advantages over Handouts....



© 2016 Demas W, Jasper All rights reserved.


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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 18 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      aviannovice - Amen on that score.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 18 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I am proud to say that I have known many immigrants that have worked hard, very hard in order to make it in this country. Some of those people worked two and three jobs, barely having enough time to rest. They got what they wanted, and that was because they persevered and earned it all.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 18 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Dear Becky,

      The strength of America comes from our diverse origins and devotion to the American dream.

      Where weakness enters in comes from those immigrants, be they refugees or more traditional legal immigrants, who have no desire to live as other Americans live, nor work toward full citizenship.

      Some of those just want to suck the system dry for their own selfish benefit, or worse still, make a bundle and take it home to where their true loyalties rest.

      Do some immigrants find themselves disillusioned that America is not the paradise shown in current Hollywood color flicks, and go home? Yes.

      We can be glad they gave it a try, even their best shot. In America they were free to leave, just as they, having met the legal requirements, were free to come.

      We don't claim our American system is perfect. We just want to have folks who are trying to make it better for themselves and for the rest of us who call America "home".

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 18 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thank you, I enjoyed reading this. Probably most of us were immigrants or descendants of immigrants in a number of countries and we are concerned about how to cope with the flood of people trying to reach our shores in these times.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 18 months ago from The Caribbean

      This is a very factual description of immigrant life for those who expect the showers of gifts and those who expect to work for their living. Woe to the scammers; some have to keep scamming long after they are able. People should be honest, pull their own weight and contribute to the system that offers them opportunities.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 18 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      A successful immigrant plans on making this their country and works to make a life for themselves, while contributing to this country. They learn to speak the language and do not accept charity except when they do not have any other choice. They do not give up their culture, but work to make it include the one that was here when they came.

      An unsuccessful immigrant moves here and expects us to support them for the rest of their lives. They refuse to learn the language and insist we adapt our paperwork to make it easier to apply for welfare by making it in their language. They never leave their country and then wonder why they cannot get further ahead. They can't because they just move their country with them, including all the things they left to get rid of.

      Enjoy your differences, but adapt to your new country. Try to become a citizen and plan to leave the bad things about your country where it and you came from. If you do not plan to adapt, please go back. I do not want to lose my country to someone that does not give a damn about it.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 18 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      The discussion here was mainly about legal immigrant refugees, but illegal immigrants working for pay "under the table" deprive legal immigrants of jobs, hold down wages, send funds out of the country, and draw on critical resources including education and health services. That certainly makes those immigrants not only illegal but also undesirable.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Good for both your wives! My uncle's wife is a legal immigrant, now a citizen, and we treasure her. I've known both kinds of immigrants and the story is the same. An unsuccessful one, a Vietnamese who never learned to read and write in her own language, much less English, is now living in poverty in a Mexican community in an eastern state. At one time she had a Green Card, but let it expire, and nobody questioned her citizenship because she was married to a veteran.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 18 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Such sound advice, I thank you.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 18 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      It doesn't have to be published, but she deserves to have it written for whatever the future brings.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 18 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      That is something to consider, if I can get her consent - she is very private.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 18 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      And America can be dang proud to have her. My wife has been a citizen since 1972 and America is glad to have her, too. You have probably read the different parts of her biography here on HubPages. Now it's time to write your wife's biography. How's that for a request?

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 18 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      My wife is a good immigrant. Not one dime from the government or charity. And she never relied on me to support her. She is awful dang proud to be an American.