Immigration Reform: What’s your family’s immigration story?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Reforming Immigration Policy
‘CLIMBING INTO THE PROMISED LAND’ That’s the title given to Lewis Hines’ famous 1908 photograph of newly arrived immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. One print of the photograph is displayed in the Brooklyn Museum, which regards the photo now as part of the public domain.

‘CLIMBING INTO THE PROMISED LAND’ That’s the title given to Lewis Hines’ famous 1908 photograph of newly arrived immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. One print of the photograph is displayed in the Brooklyn Museum, which regards the photo now as part of the public domain.

Debates about immigration reform don’t go long before we are reminded that America is an immigrant society. Almost all Americans are descendents of immigrants or are immigrants themselves.

What’s your immigration story? Today, please, tell us how your family first came to the United States.

Almost 70% of Americans know the story of how their families first came to these shores, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). More than four of ten (43%) say they know the story very well. The majority of Asian Americans and Latino Americans say they know their family’s immigration story very well, but only a minority of white and black Americans can say the same.

I know my family’s immigration story on my mother’s side very well—because it’s so short. She was born in America, but her parents were born in England. My grandfather grew up in an English poor house, and like so many, immigrated to the States primarily to better his lot in life. These grandparents never lost their English accents, and it always surprised me when my grandfather said that he felt discriminated against because of his heritage and language.

The story on my father’s side is much longer, with five or six generations born in the United States. The story is hazy before that, but it appears that the ancestor who immigrated came from the English-Scottish borderlands as part of the so-called Great Migration of the Scots-Irish to America. The reason for moving was the same—to escape poverty and find economic opportunity.

How well do you know your family’s immigration story?

Would you tell us the story?

Does your story influence how you see immigration reform?

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Comments

  1. Dmitri says

    Remembering how my family first arrived in the U.S isn’t too difficult for me, considering that I was part of the trip. We left the Soviet Union soon after it collapsed, and after an extended stay in Sweden, we arrived in New York to stay with friends. Soon after, my father received a teaching job at a University, and we moved to Michigan to start fresh.

    I understand the mentality some immigrants have, the “Why should I have to go through the process (and pay fees, take tests and more) when other people just show up?” but at the same time, compassion dictates that a man that arrives in your country should not have to live in fear of deportation when it is already difficult to live as an illegal.

    It’s not an easy issue to resolve, but I do believe the path to citizenship for those that are already here needs to be easier.