My husband is an immigrant.
He went to one of the best high schools in Paris, and then one of the best preparatory schools. He graduated from the top university in France (Ecole Polytechnique) for math, science, and engineering. He came to the US first as a visiting scholar, and then was invited to return for graduate school. Soon, Hewlett Packard snatched him up. That great brain of his helped create some of the first all-in-one printers and some of the first digital cameras. Now, he works for Google.
He came to the US because of the unique opportunities our country offered. Like many immigrants, he stayed because he felt welcomed, challenged, and knew he could have a career here that would surpass what was available to him in France at the time. So here he stayed, collaborating with other immigrants, working alongside American-born engineers.
Would he have followed the same path today? Would our technology industry, strong as it is, be attractive enough to great minds like my husband’s despite the current administrations’ policies and attitudes toward immigrants?
A dear friend who is also married to a French man said to me recently, “Carol, we’re one Freedom Fries incident away from our husbands being the next ‘bad hombres.’” (Mauvais mecs, if you want the French version.)
Remember Freedom Fries? After 9/11? Because I do. I remember the subtle and not so subtle comments and jabs I received about being married to one of “those French guys.” The traitors who didn’t support Bush’s Iraq invasion. The ones who should be thanking us for eternity because they aren’t speaking German right now. The ones who should be rubber-stamping all US policy, not daring to stand against us citing something like principles.
While I don’t purport to sit here in my privileged life and compare rude insults made to my husband and me during those years to the instability and terror immigrants and refugees face now, to the families being threatened and torn apart by the travel ban and ICE knocking on their doors, I will say that I got a glimpse of being the vilified “other”, and while I recognize that for us it was mild, it was still, well, awful. And it was hard not to be scared.
My husband’s father was born in Tunisia, where the overwhelming majority of the population identifies as Muslim. We wondered, during the Freedom Fries years, if we were one terrorist attack away from my husband’s nationality and his father’s birthplace marking him as a threat to the USA. We wonder, now, how many of our enemies are emboldened by #45’s recklessness. How many more of our allies he will offend. How that will play out for us, here, foreign and domestically born.
How far will this vilification of otherness go? What level of inhumane, undignified treatment will we accept as a country? How long will so many dehumanize those who are deemed not “one of us,” not deserving of “belonging”?
Like it or not, immigrants are the reason our tech industry has led the world. Many of our engineers, many of our greatest minds, came from countries now banned. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple; his parents fled Syria. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, is a Russian refugee. Immigrants founded a disproportionately high number of companies in this country.
My life with my immigrant husband and our two children is filled with more love, joy, and adventure than I ever imagined I would experience. That, and French fries. He isn’t the “other.” A nameless, faceless, maligned immigrant who shouldn’t be here. He’s a human being, a husband, a father, a hard worker, a brilliant mind, and a now a US citizen who still holds hope for the country he grew to love when he first came here more than 20 years ago. Despite it all. I hope this country doesn’t let us down.
My husband was featured in an article in our local paper. You can read that here:
Thank you for sharing your and your husband’s story! So many do not realize what first and second-gen immigrants already contribute to this country.
Agreed. That’s why I felt the need to say something. Thank you!
From one French immigrant ,well done! Mais, la France va pour le méme chemin ::)
Merci. Yes, we are over here watching the French elections with much trepidation.
The whole demonizing “others” – on both sides of the aisle – makes me incredibly sad. We should be better than this. A little compassion and decency goes a long way.
Agreed on all counts. We either don’t have conversations anymore, or they quickly descend into ad hominem attacks. It’s such a complicated problem that is only worsening.
I randomly ended up on your post about fall activities and then found this. I can see it’s been a long time since you have posted and I’m going to make an assumption about why that may be .. perhaps the exhaustion from the constant attacks on the true American values, the disheartening realization that about 1/3 of the country hates its form of government, but even more disheartening that so many people seem to not embody those values at all (speaking of the nazi resurgence, etc).
Hope you stay strong and that you stay well. There are many more of us who deplore this state of affairs than those who would rather demolish everything we’ve got rather than improving it. Vote, volunteer for get out the vote and campaigns if you can, keep on hoping and being a great human being.
Hello! Thank you so much for your kind comments. You are 100% correct as to the cause of my lack of enthusiasm over blogging lately. It’s been a difficult time for so many of us. A lot of my extra time has gone to exactly what you list – I’m involved in several volunteer programs in my community, and I’m also working with local democrats, aiming for getting better candidates into the government from the local level on up. I do still have plenty of post ideas and hope to start posting more, soon. Thank you for your support!