Apart from the original American Indians, all current U.S. residents are immigrants or descended from immigrants. We are familiar with the historic photos of ships passing the Statue of Liberty with hopeful families gazing at the promised land.
The quote by Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” is a timely reminder of the kindness, compassion and generosity of the American people.
America is my adopted home and I am an immigrant. America welcomed me when I moved to New Jersey from England in the early 1980s. I was not a refugee, or an exile, or an illegal but an educated young woman seeking fresh adventures. I arrived legally and gained my green card, a process that took a long time and was financially and emotionally expensive.
When I arrived, I was the only white woman standing in line at the immigration office in Newark, New Jersey. We were treated professionally but it felt very strange to have my fingerprints taken, and being treated with suspicion was a new experience for me. The same lengthy, emotional and expensive procedure took place when I completed the process to become a citizen in 1993.
In 1981, I was welcomed into the mixed-race community of West Orange, New Jersey. In 1992, I moved to Las Vegas for work and in 2002 relocated to Boulder City. I quickly realized I was in a very different community.
Recovering from a divorce, I quickly found a safe place to rent and was welcomed by the locals. But what it if I had been of a different color or different religion, say Muslim? I asked myself, at the time, would it have been so easy to find somewhere to live and would I have been made so welcome?
About a decade ago a small group of us held a monthly social gathering that discussed a new topic each time. One of the topics was to describe Boulder City in 10 years. Our local group consisted of men and women of all ages and they held many differing opinions.
My thinking was that, over the following decades, Boulder City could become more multiethnic. As older residents made way for younger families, many from Las Vegas and probably Hispanic, this would create a new population in our city. The group seemed shocked. We have come a long way from Lady Liberty’s welcoming words.
A week ago, at the Boulder City Post Office I was surprised to find it packed with young Hispanic families, many with babies and young children, applying for or renewing their U.S. passports. Then, local TV news showed images of families fleeing America to enter Canada as immigrants.
We have entered a new era of mistrust. Perhaps it is time to remember our shared origins and the words of Emma Lazarus.
Angela Smith is a Ph.D. life coach, author and educator who has been resident in Nevada since 1992. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.