Monday, August 13, 2012

Immigration and the American Dream

Immigration's effects on our communities 
Are immigrants living the American Dream?
America is a country of immigrants. People have flocked to the United States in an attempt to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Many of the people that come to the US come at great personal sacrifice hoping for the opportunity to live the American Dream. Some even come here as illegal immigrants because they don't want to wait for the long drawn out process. Illegal immigration has become a very hot topic in public debate lately. As long as there is an American Dream there will be people trying to get to the US for a chance to achieve it.

The main concerns over illegal immigration revolve around people coming to the US and taking advantage of the social programs. These illegal aliens are blamed for creating an  incredible drain on the system. Is this the American Dream? Come to America and sit around collecting food stamps and welfare checks living in secure poverty the rest of your life? No! We do a terrible disservice to the citizens when we provide so much for them that they don't have any incentive to better their lives. Help them? yes. But more importantly encourage them help them to develop the skills so that they can achieve the American Dream.

Over the years I have enjoyed eating in a couple of Mexican restaurants and I have found a car repair shop that does a good job at a fair price. These establishments are owned and operated by the same man. Actually his wife runs the restaurant and his son runs the auto repair shop. I had the privilege of meeting with him and hearing his story.

By all accounts our society would consider this man a successful business man. He owns three profitable Mexican restaurants and an auto repair shop. ( He is quick to point out that the bank actually owns them). He appears to be a typical American citizen so how has he achieved the American Dream in his life?

Ironically the owner of these Mexican restaurants is not from Mexico but from El Salvador. When he was a young boy, unstable government conditions forced his father out of the country and to the United States. As a young boy he saw many horrific scenes as the governmental factions fought. He was not allowed to go to school after a couple of years in part because of the violence.

As a teenager he was finally able to escape the chaos and horror and come to the United States. He was enrolled in Provo High School as a junior. After several months of school he was brought into the administration offices because he was failing in every subject. Fortunately a wise administrator asked him why his grades were so poor then took time to listen. Can you imagine, only having a couple of years of formal education then being sent to a school where your peers have had 10 years of teaching? Add to that the minor issue of it all being in a foreign language. Given those circumstances could anyone get passing grades. This wise administrator didn't give him a pass on his schooling but helped him find a path to success.

The kind administrator was able to understand the problem and help solve it. A couple of years later he was able to graduate from high school. All this time he worked as a dish washer but more importantly he watched and learned how to run a restaurant. He heard about a restaurant for sale in Spanish Fork and secured a loan to buy it. With hard work, determination, and quality food he has grown to add three additional restaurants while his father has the original. He also has the auto repair shop that his son is running.  How did he learn about car repair? Now that is another story.

What of his native country and his relatives still there? For years he has purchased older trucks and buses, loaded them up with donated clothing and medical supplies, and transported them back to his home community. This selfless act has blessed the givers here in the US as well as the receivers there in El Salvador. Unfortunately as new government regulations are imposed it makes it difficult for him to carry out this incredible work.

This is a great example of someone that was willing to work hard to achieve his dreams and is seeing the fruits of his labors. How does he deal with this success? He quietly shares it with those around him. Helping them to have better lives. What an honor it is to call this immigrant from El Salvador a fellow US citizen! People like him keep the American Dream alive!

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