Friday, April 25, 2008

Support from a US citizen

We don't often do this; but this comment deserves a post of its own...From Mary Kate in New York


MaryKate: I have been reading through here. I don't know how this is going to be received, but, here goes.....

My great-grandfather was born in Tourmakeady. After a brief stint in London, as a young man he found his way to New York City c. 1920. He had much less than some of the posters here have. He didn't have much to get by on: 8th grade education, not many marketable skills (even by the day's standards,) and only had his sisters to rely on for company.

Time passed for him. He met a girl from roughly the next town over in Ireland. They married, raised many children, and used their house in Brooklyn to help others adjust to America: they would board folks off the boat until they found a place to live. In the meantime, he worked the docks in Brooklyn and did the work most of the high and mighty "Americans" wouldn't touch with a barge pole. (During the Depression things were particularly bad: they lost a baby to genetic defect and hospital bills were terrible.)

Many years later, I look at his wedding photo, and then I look around: the sacrifices he and his wife made all those years ago paid off hugely. His daughter and her husband (may he rest in peace) have been helping folks in Woodside for decades. More than half of his grandchildren went to university: one is a professor at McGill in Canada. Another is a lawyer. His great-grandchildren include an engineer, a stockbroker, and my sister is a doctor-to-be. I am about to graduate with a degree in computer animation. All of this wouldn't have been possible without him: if he had never left or dared for something more I would not have been born, nor would an entire clan of people exist.

"So what does this have to do with the present discussion?"-More than you realize. Pop got here by jumping ship to Canada & then sailing down the Hudson: today that would get him INS all over his tail. He worked his @#$ off helping the US Navy at the Yards for his part in the war effort: today that would land him in jail as his contracts wouldn't be legit. He had a license until he was too old to see (not possible now) and his emigration helped others coming after him (not encouraged now.) He even helped his son-in-law (another Mayo man) get started in business-today he might not have the money! To say that I am disgusted is an understatement-my Pop EARNED the right to be here as much as I have the right to exist, which is more than I can say about some fat cats in Congress or especially King George.

My best advice is HOLD THE LINE. DO NOT BREAK. IF YOU TRULY WANT TO STAY HERE, NEVER BREAK OR THE BAD GUYS WIN. Immigration reform is needed badly here and the only folks who have a hope of changing it are immigrants, not necessarily voters: the work illegal immigrants generate is worth billions of dollars. If that were to suddenly dry up and people went on strike it could cripple the infrastructure-deporting millions of people at once is damned near impossible and 50,000+ illegal Irish could be leaders easily of a movement. (look up Mother Jones if you don't believe me.) Learn more about the history of the Irish here: there is a lot more to it than a song by the Pogues or, at least what I have seen from kin overseas, a textbook spiel (greater obstacles have been faced and overcome.) Speak to American friends who will listen-they will help you. And yes, albeit blunderingly with green beer and bad versions of The Wild Rover, reach out to your local AOH, chock full of Irish Americans whose pockets are deep and connections big.

In the meantime, wait a little until after the next election. Don't put much stock in HIlary or McCain-neither seem keen on changing much (McCain is towing the old xenophobic party line and Hilary doesn't give a tinker's damn about immigrants except if they are Chinese snakeheads who can intimidate the downtrodden Chinatowners into "donations". ) Don't wait for the Irish govt. to do much: if the economy starts to buck like a mule again the priorities shall shift. HOLD THE LINE, AND DEMAND WHAT YOU WANT.

And to the lady before me: don't give up just yet. Money can't solve everything, you're right, but going two steps forward and three back doesn't help either. You want better opportunity and so does he. The fact that you are still hanging tough and hanging on should be a testament, not a tragedy: my Pop was damned near broke, had a wife who constantly argued with his sister, had no health insurance, three small kids, and a fourth one slowly dying because he couldn't keep food in his stomach. So what did he do?-He set up a still in his basement at the height of Prohibition for extra cash, managed to have two more children, took another job with the local church, and by the time he was very old (100) surrounded himself with all his numerous kin, toothlessly shaking his cane at the sky and taunting the [long dead] brother who stayed behind that he beat him.

Have faith. It will work out in time.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm the granddaughter of Irish immigrants (they were legal). They emigrated when Ireland was a very poor country, but they followed the law, because they were good and decent people. They wanted to become American, they knew it was a privelege, not a right.

They raised their children and inspired their grandchildren to love America, and to be cognizant of the responsibilities to fight to protec freedom and liberty.

I'm offended by illegal Irish thinking they somehow have a right to come here, displace Americans and then demand legality. Ireland is a wealthy country, and Irish citizens have the ability to demand their home governments do more to create jobs and strengthen their own economy, rather than make excuses for violating the laws of other countries and do harm to American citizens by underming wage laws and protections by underbidding.

I will never support legalization for the sort of scum who would deliberately work to destroy the lives of innocent American citizens, push American children into dire poverty and homelessness.. only scum would do such things and as such they have no right to ask to be allowed to stay here.

Sean said...

What a tale. Criminality and cronyism all the way for Gramps, eh? And that heritage is something to be proud of? Your views, if passed along to your offspring will hopefully land them in jail. That was the past. The present should not embrace all those 'characteristics' of your predecessors. How can you support them, the illegals? Simply pointing, misty-eyed, to a impoverished past is no rationale for the transgressions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous and Sean -
you've both obviously missed the entire point of Mary-Kate's posting because of your narrow mindedness and your bigotry. Her story is the story of many immigrants, that with hard work and love of your adopted country, anything is possible. That is what makes this amazing country of our so special and different from anywhere else in the world. And its why immigrants still want to come here and change their lives and their future.
Maybe you should both take a moment away from your pedantic mindsets and take a real look at our US immigration system - it doesn't work, it doesn't serve anyone and it needs to be overhauled completely so immigrants can continue to come here, make a difference and so more people like Mary-Kate can continue to be proud of their family history.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I must be missing something...but how did your Irish immigrants from the past come to America legally....Did they sit in Ireland filling out forms?Did they wait patiently for a non-exsistant visa to arrive?OR did they scrape up enough money to get on a boat,some as stowaways,arrive on Ellis,read a paragrapgh in their native tongue,pass a medical and declare they were fit to work?Then they recieved a visa!If you have the documentation to prove they did their paperwok in Ireland and went through the rigmaroles that you think Irish should do before arriving here(just like your granpappies did)then put up or shut up!You know nothing.

Give me a break all you self righteous idiots!!!The Irish here today did the same as years gone by.We all want a better life for ourselves and our families.As for blaming us for destroying the American family and pushing their children into poverty...bullshit.There is plenty of work here,if you want to work. That is the biggest problem with the likes of you(BIGOTS)..no self responsibility,your problems are because of someonelse,you can't be wrong so other people are to blame for your failings.

We are here working,YES paying taxes,recieving NO benifits,own homes and we even employ Americans.We have done nothing different from your forefathers,only times have changed and we are to be persecuted by the likes of you.

If Visa's were as easy as you think to get do you really think that immigrants would come here the way they do? 200 Visa's,by Lottery, to Ireland last year!

P.S. Go to Ellis Island and see the bigotry your forefathers had to endure and know that they would be turning in their graves to know they had birthed their own self righteous bigots. Shame on you!!

sean said...

Did someone with conscious thought write this "...hard work and love of your adopted country, anything is possible."? Illegal activities and disrespect of the law is 'love'? Read the OP again. The message is blatant opportunism which, in the view of some, is fair play.

I support open immigration. Borderless. What's your policy? Are you prepared the deal with everyone that wants to make a go of it in America? Everyone? Balkan mafia? Asian pimps? Middle Eastern misogynists? Tell me not that you have 'guidelines' tailored to filter out undesirables. Like Gramps.

Why are your filters better that the present ones? Discard them all. Are you prepared to support that? Probably not. Heartstrings and homespun history aside, immigration policies are needed. Unfair and unreasonable, but necessary.

Mary Kate said...

Hello, thought I would interject a bit to counter Sean and one of the anonymous people... (I apologize for its length)

The lessons of Pop's life, the views I want to pass on to my own children stand thus:

I'd want to teach my kids that your destiny is what you make it: don't let anyone tell you different. If my great-grandfather had stayed behind, he would have been at the mercy of John Bull, an icon he loathed from cradle to grave. It is not an easy thing to have memories of soldiers literally stealing the food off your table as a little boy. It is hard when you have a brogue thick as molasses/are a native Irish speaker and the Irish Civil War is raging...and you have to work the London docks. It's even a bit of cruel proof that the Almighty has a twisted sense of humor that your given name is Patrick..a stone's throw from another nasty word some might snigger about behind your back.

But it is a death knell when you get word that the only valuable thing your family possesses (a small farm) is passing into the hands of your eldest brother...and as you are one of the youngest sons, you realize you will be stuck on that wharf until you die.

To say that I have any romanticized ideas about the past is actually way off the mark, Sean-it was anything but that according to the old man himself. "Gramps" was in his twenties when he received the news his father had passed on and he realized his prospects were nil- his life was over barely before it started. He didn't want to stay on some rat infested dock until he was dead. He could be a hired hand on a farm but that had even fewer guarantees (plus he'd already tried it.) He knew the twin sister he left behind five years ago was already in America (somewhere) and he already had another sister, Brigid, willing to join him. The only trouble was he wasn't exactly made of money: 2 steerage tickets +2 tickets to Liverpool to catch the boat+ settling accounts with the landlady in London+ having the required $50 so you and your older sister can prove to Ellis Island you won't be a public nuisance +having a little extra when you get off the boat=a lot more money than what you're usually paid! If he knew where his twin was he could have asked for a sponsor and she could have helped with his fare. He had neither, so he got a slightly cheaper ticket to Canada as a last resort (and that in itself took time to get the money for.)


Did my "Gramps" abide by the law once he was able?-Actually, yes: he eventually got citizenship (he'd wanted it for a while.) By that time he'd settled into a respectable life in his corner of Brooklyn. (It was hard for parish priests to ignore knobbly kneed little girls showing up in little communion veils every few years or little ones pestering them about altar boy duty.) His twin, Maureen, had found him and had moved a few blocks down with her husband-legally she was a citizen, so she could help her brother with the application. Before his wife decided to change her status a little later, she'd been preoccupied by having seven births and one death before she could correct what she'd said at Ellis Island (she'd agreed to stay for seven years but wound up falling for the boss-lady's brother...)

Pop and his wife broke the law when there were no other options open to them, not out of a burning desire to be crooks: there is a difference. When they had the chance they rectified the situation, and more importantly, they were given a chance: they didn't have to worry that their children would be taken from them by INS officials like some do now or that they'd be hunted like rabbits. If he were alive, Sean, he'd probably agree with you that some filters are needed for real criminals like murderers and rapists, NOT to turn away folks who genuinely want to work hard or go to bingo night without fear of the fuzz. (Or simply because they aren't rich.)

Personally I support fixing the immigration system. I like the idea of a reasonable monetary penalty for staying illegally but I also like the idea of overhauling the visa system/quotas. I want my kids to grow up in a nation where it is more "give me your tired, your poor" than "give me your business associates, your overeducated, your Chinese rocket scientist trying to make a name for himself when he goes back to Beijing with NASA bragging rights." I don't want them to take whatever freedoms they have for granted or to look down on someone just because of where he came from. I want them to obey the law, but more importantly I want them to question whether it is just or not and find what they can do to change it if it isn't-government is only fair when it serves the needs of everyone.

Anonymous said...

I love the way anonymous has put they were legal in brackets.
I wonder what your ansestors would think of you now?
Can you imagine what they went through to get to this country, being greated by signs that say Irish need not apply. The stories that you have probably heard down the years of the hard times they had or at least other Irish people had, what they were subject to is exactly what you have become.
You are ready to judge people you do not know but straight away you assume that Irish people coming here are scum and they would want to destroy anything. No in fact a lot of the Irish and other nationalities pay taxes and contribute to society, not all do I agree. But what if they got a visa and put into the system. At least there is a record of who is here and that way it is much easier to find people who are not willing to contribute to society. I wonder what if your ancestors did not get into America all those years ago. What if they did not have the fare to get here? Where would you be now? Could you be one of the parents in Ireland hoping that one day your son\daughter can get some kind of a visa to go back for a visit, see a sick loved one or celebrate in a joyous occasion.
I also read Sean not Shaun or John. Yes Sean I see you hold on to your hertiage through your name, but you are so ready to turn your back and criticise people of Ireland. I am very pleased that you both and hopefully many more people will leave their comments and through time you may come to understand the system and what the ilir is really about.
Thank you for your comments and taking the time to read mine.