Monday, April 10, 2006


I biked over to the far west side to visit the business of an immigrant I know. She works hard and has a complicated personal life which she reviews with me when I come by. She is pretty successful at what she does. Still, her work is tedious and she likes to pause and talk about men, relationships and the American way. She is from Laos.

I, too, am an immigrant. I hold on to this identity. I never forget about it.

I wanted at one time to be an immigration law specialist. I know far too much from personal experience what it’s like to seek work here, legally, illegally, quasi-legally. I know what it’s like to get hired under the table and not get benefits. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

But in the end I hadn’t the fiber for it. Handling custody battles seemed more cheery than handling deportation issues. Two parents fighting to spend time with a child. How nice. A person facing expulsion. Leave, or be jailed. Either way, go back to your family and tell them you failed.

The neighborhood I live is on one side student-ish, and on three sides immigrant-ish.

I rode out on Mr. B to do my stuff out there on the west side and, as I was leaving my neighborhood, I came face to face with the demonstration of Latino people, hundreds of them, walking back from the Capitol, asking, with their banners and their faces, for recognition and acceptance.

I claimed American citizenship when I had recognition and acceptance. I was already in law school, I had a family, I knew I would find work. My commie past was forgiven, I had a spot here. I did not have to face my family and tell them I had failed.

The images below... they bring forth a wealth of sadness in me that I cannot begin to explain.

Madison Apr 06 203

Madison Apr 06 212

Madison Apr 06 207

Madison Apr 06 215


  1. Very moving post. I am a first generation American and most of my family members are immigrants to the US -- my dad, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. If there had been a way for me to miss my class today and join the march, I would have been right there with them.

  2. agreed. very moving post. as a third generation american, i have no idea what it is like to be an immigrant, but as member of other minorities, i know exactly what its like to be an outsider, to feel excluded and unwelcome.

  3. What do you think is the overall answer to this immense problem? I have empathy for all these people. I wish there was some way to assimilate them culturaly and nationaly. We all ae products of immigration.

    Your friend,


  4. I am so proud to see so many people marching for their rights, but I'm equally disheartened by people not understanding the immigration debate, or the implication of some of their positions.

    I have to say I'm glad I took Family Law and the Family Law Clinic with Ocean prior to taking Immigration Law, or I too would likely have taken another path as an attorney. At least Family Law gives the appearance of legal recourse for those "wronged"; at times, there's no sense of justice in deportation hearings.

  5. I agree that illegal immigration is a huge problem. However, since most of the discussion seems to revolve around the problems caused by immigrants -- both illegal and legal, I would like to tell you the story of my family of immigrants.

    In 1916 my father was born in a cellar in Leige, Belgium during a massive German artillery attack. After the war my grandfather decided to emigrate to Canada to make a better life for his family. He had to leave his wife and child behind as he could only scrape up enough money for his fare to Canada. He worked as a day laborer for the various Belgian farmers around Tilbury, Ontario. In two years he had saved enough money to bring his wife and child to Canada. So in 1923 my father, age 7, found himself living in a farmer's log cabin, going to a school and laboring in the fields when he was needed. Time passed. My grandfather found a good job at the Chrysler plant in Windsor, Ontario as a metal finisher. My father finished school, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, flew three tours over Europe during World War II as a combat pilot, was decorated for valor and became the youngest Air Commodore (equivalent to Brigadier General in the U.S.) during the war.

    After the war my father left the RCAF, found a job with an industrial roofing company in Windsor, married, had a child (me), moved to Detroit, Michigan, USA and started his own very small industrial roofing company. Time passed. The business grew. Dad eventually employed over 400 workers. When he retired, he sold the business to his employees.

    In the meantime, I was going to school, joined the United States Air Force, became a naturalized citizen, flew a tour as a combat pilot (Captain) in Viet Nam, left the service, worked for a few advertising agencies, and started my own small ad agency. Time passed. The business grew. 92 people worked for me when I sold the business at age 51 to devote all my time to fine art.

    From Belgium to Canada to the real land of opportunity: the Unites States of America. We worked very hard, used school as a ladder to success, become good citizens, thanked God for our good life, and gave back to the community. Not bad for a poor immigrant family.

    Because someone left everything behind to find a better life, a chain of events was started that led to hundreds of jobs being created, millions of dollars in taxes paid, and a lot of families living a good life in this wonderful country.

    So, what should be done about illegal immigration? I don't know. But I do believe the illegal immigrants come to this country for the same reason my grandfather first went to Canada -- to have the chance to provide a better life for his family. I don't like people braking the law. We have to find a way to stop the flood of illegal immigrants, but I don't think we can or should send back the millions of illegal immigrants already in this country. They are here, let's find a way to help them become good members of our community. Require them to learn English, to have a job, to pay taxes, to send their children to school, to stay out of trouble, to learn about their new country. Finally, allow them a path to become a citizen. In time, if only one percent have the same success as my family of immigrants the country will be far better than if we had sent them back.

  6. All: thanks for the comments. Now if I only had the perfectly workable solution, I’d be out in DC advocating it. I do know that people whose work we value need the respect, protections and safeguards we grant others (the “naturals”). A few years back, when I cooked for a restaurant (yes, I did that), I saw the frustration of the proprietor who could not find, even in this community of students, anyone to do the dirty work. She hired several Latinos. Who did it very very well. She then went with them to a local immigration attorney so that they could get assistance in clearing up their immigration papers. Because she was the kind of employer who believed that their contributions were valuable. It seemed a good beginning. Though I do wonder if now, five years later, they’ve made any progress, given the length of time this stuff takes. While families wait.

    dande: your comment posted after I'd already typed this, but it seems we have a number of similar observations.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. sorry, sgtrocknroll. I could not be more clear about Ocean's comments policy: I censor and delete comments that are rude, that resort to name-calling, that seek to ridicule or demean people, any people, that provoke and promote hatred etc etc. And I get to decide who has crossed the line. That's Ocean for you, like it or not.

  9. I'm a descendant of (recent) immigrants like most Americans, and the vast majority of the immigrants I've known well (from damn near everywhere, including Latin America) were the kind of immigrants we want. But I have to say, there's something a bit odd about some of these particular demonstrators carrying a foreign flag and demanding to be considered above the laws of the US. And then you've got the Aztlan crowd telling us to get the hell out.

    It's a shame that lefties aren't interested in trying to understand why some of us find some of this stuff a bit annoying.

    And by the way, let's not say this is about "immigrants", not otherwise specified. That's not accurate. It's about illegal immigrants. It's about giving illegal immigrants a special free prize that the legal ones still have to sweat for like my grandparents did. Mmmmkay? It's not about the Eeeevil Right Wingers opposing "immigration"; it's about them opposing illegal immigration. And I'm reasonably confident that at least some folks on the left must understand the legal vs. illegal distinction; they're the ones who are so rigidly consistent in saying "immigration" whenever the subject is actually illegal immigration.

    Oh, well. At least I tried.

    So which thoughtcrime will this get deleted for? Of course you've got a perfect right; it's your blog. Private property and all that.

  10. anon: I could delete you for any number of reasons, including for posting as "anon," a practice I discourage if not out and out ban (note policy as stated in sidebar). One reason I would not delete you for is an expression of an idea I do not share.
    In truth, though, I let your comment stand so that mine would make sense.
    But please, can we skip the poison against lefties (or righties) please? I assume people get the distinction between legal and illegal. Especially people who are on the faculty of a law school. Like me, for instance.

  11. I'm not sure what rights these illegals are marching for. There is no right to American citizenship -- other than the birthright of someone born here. Otherwise citizenship is a privilege that has to be earned -- legally. It can not, or should not, be stolen by blackmail.

    Legal immigration made this country great. Illegal immigration is tearing it apart.

  12. I too am an immigrant. I am not a citizen yet, but hope to soon. So many Americans have very little idea about how much red tape goes into trying to do things the legal way. The immigration laws need to be changed - guest worker programs would be a great way of recognizing the reality of the situation, and avoid criminalizing people who want to make an honest living. Somehow in all this legal immigrants should be recognised too. The paperwork is overwhelming, and the waiting periods too. It isn't simple. This is not a "latino" issue - immigrants come from many different backgrounds.


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