Wednesday, May 7, 2008

RI -- An Economic Crisis, Not One Of Immigration

I came to Rhode Island in 1982 from New York.

I am the daughter and granddaughter and great granddaughter of refugees. My father was born in Germany in 1931, and his father was born in Latvia; his mother in Poland. My grandfather was an ophthalmologist and decided that he would not stay in Germany after Hitler rose to power and laws were constructed that would only allow him to treat Jews, but not non-Jews. They had the resources to make it to Palestine in 1933. This is what I was always told as a child. The reason my Opa left the shtetl in Latvia for Berlin was to go to medical school.

My mother's family arrived in the U.S. long before my father, but they were immigrants too. They came from Germany and Russia. Some of them changed their names and "passed" as gentiles or at least managed to be "less Jewish". One of my relatives in New York last century wrote and published poems in Yiddish.

I love Rhode Island. Here I have found many educations, many families, many workplaces. Here I have studied American Sign Language and Spanish and Cape Verdean Creole. My son was born at Women & Infants Hospital. He has a mixed RhodeIsland/New York accent. His friends and he are teaching me new colloquialisms, even if I am a slow learner.

A few days ago, the neighboring house that is slowly turning into a Condominium was broken into. People tried to steal the copper from the plumbing. We have had bread lines at community centers since the 1980's if not before. I hear that some in Newport have not recovered from the exit of the Navy. In Woonsocket, there are many people waiting and praying for the mills to reopen.

I do not own a house, but I understand what property values and taxes are. I was involved in the public schools long before my child was born. There are thousands of Rhode Islanders, born at the old "Lying-In" Hospital whose reading levels limit their work options.

"I've been barefoot -- pregnant or not" is a line from a song by Fred Small. (" Letter From May Alice Jeffers").

Poverty and opportunity are reasons for migration, yes, but the immigrants bring Wisdom, Energy, Faith and much more. The statistics are available in other places.

Thank God for the Immigrants.

I pray for the Governors and Executives to return to their deepest knowledge and act accordingly.

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