In all of my 50 years of life, I have no memory of the people of my country reacting to a presidency as they are doing now. What I have been thinking about mostly in recent months is the controversy over Trump's policy on illegal immigration. I wonder what is going through people's minds. Why do they want to come here? Freedom? Job opportunities? Reuniting with family? To escape from violence? What do they expect when they get here? What will they contribute to our society? What do they expect our country to offer them? All of these questions lead me to think about the story of my parents, immigrants from Italy in 1961, and it reminds me of lessons I learned from them as I grew up as a first generation American.
My parents came here for a better life. They wanted to raise their children in a place that was full of opportunities. My mother grew up on a farm in Palata, Campobasso. My father became a man at age 11 when his father died of bronchitis in the same small town. He took over his father's job as the town mailman, and he practically raised his 3 younger brothers. After getting married and having their first child in Italy, they decided they wanted something better. America was the obvious choice to them. They came her LEGALLY, and took no short cuts. They took a very difficult journey over the Atlantic Ocean by boat, my mother being quarantined because she got sick. It took some time, but once they got here, my father found a job as a tailor, and eventually my mother used her sewing skills to get a job in the Garment District of NYC. They both learned English because they felt it was the right thing to do. My parents both became American citizens after a few years.
My parents taught us that THIS was our country. America. We were told that our allegiance was to the country that we lived and worked in. We also learned to appreciate and be proud of our Italian culture. That, of course, should never be forgotten. When Columbus Day came, our Italian flag went up, but right above it was our American flag. It wasn't always easy. My father got very ill, we faced racism on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx when the black kids used to beat us up, money was often very tight, and my mother had no family here to rely on. But my parents never gave up.
I think that people should be welcome here, as long as they come here legally as my parents did. We live in dangerous times, yes. So they might have to be inconvenienced and patient. But once they do find their way here, they should call this their country, feeling free to share their culture with their children, their friends, their neighborhood, their new country. That's all America wants from them.
~ Julia Giaccio