ellis island

Arriving at Ellis Island

Editor's Note: This story is fictional and is meant to bring to light the authors immigration concerns. 

They had never been on a ship before. The transatlantic voyage was both exciting and scary as each day the ocean seemed to be getting rougher, the waves rising higher and higher and the water splashing onto the forecastle. There were hundreds of other passengers on board a large old ship heading for the land of freedom. Jack had barely managed to secure a third-class cabin for him and his wife, where the newlywed couple would spend weeks together, away from oppression, poverty and despair.

Finally, they arrived in America, the land of opportunity that other settlers from various parts of the world considered their last hope. Jack and Rose had just a couple of suitcases containing all their life savings. They were 18 years old. Their parents back in the old world had blessed and supported their decision to pursue the unknown and treacherous journey to the new world. That was 100 years ago.

Ultimately, Jack and Rose succeeded in acquiring land and started a farming business. Today, Jack and Rose’s descendants own one of the most successful corn production companies in America.

Recently, I sat down and spoke with a member of their corn for the world company. The 100-year-old enterprise continues to do well despite a more competitive business environment. Leonardo, one of Jack and Rose’s great-grandchildren and head of the company, described how proud he was of his great-grandparents, who had nothing to start with but succeeded against all odds. Leonardo emphasized their success was only possible in America. He was grateful for being an American, and he was grateful for the protection he enjoyed from the U.S. Constitution.

As my conversation with Leonardo continued, his wife, Louise, walked in and told Leonardo that he should turn on the TV to hear an important announcement from the government. Apparently, the government had decided to investigate thousands of naturalized American citizens for suspected untruths in their immigration applications. The head government lawyer emphatically shouted in the microphone, “We should prosecute all perpetrators! And punishment will be harsh, including taking away their citizenship and deporting them back to their nowhere countries.” Louise and Leonardo appeared disturbed by the message, their faces faded, and I could see tears in Louise’s eyes. She said to her husband, “Imagine your great-grandfather being treated this way. Where would you and I be?”

My fellow citizens, we all agree we must abide and respect our immigration laws. However, let us imagine Jack and Rose coming to America without passports or immigration papers. Imagine Jack and Rose dreaming of a better life and starting their own family. Imagine Jack and Rose struggling to overcome countless hurdles. Imagine Jack and Rose finding their first home, having their first child, harvesting their first corn crop. That was only possible because America gave Jack and Rose a chance.

America has always been a loving country. That makes America a special country, a country of hope for those seeking a second chance in life. However, America is also a global giant, and with global leadership comes great responsibility. With global leadership comes a need for compassion. America is always special when treading as a compassionate giant. This is why many in America utter prayers such as “God Bless America.” This is why many affirm “In God We Trust.”

Immigrant families come to America so they can earn a living to support a better life. I guess this prompted the inscription “In God We Trust” on our nation’s bills. As we navigate heated debates with those on the opposite sides of our political worlds, let us pause and take a moment to envision our ancestors arriving in America. How would we want America to treat our great-grandparents? Would we be more at peace with each other by embracing the idea that “In God we Trust” might mean that we would treat others, as we, ourselves, would wish to be treated?


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