We had just arrived to America from Pakistan and my dad gave my brother a quarter so that he could play the Pac-Man arcade game. I wanted to play too, so I asked my dad for a quarter and he said I could have one of my brother’s Pac-Man lives. I kicked, screamed and yelled, “I want my own quarter!” I cried, and I cried. My family didn’t budge. I was 7, and with my brother being 10 years older, I was the baby of the family with three guardians around me. I was also a spoiled
I remember being confused as my tears dried up while my brother played Pac-Man. In Pakistan I usually got whatever I wanted. I didn’t really have to share with anyone because my parents had a solid income coming in, at least for Pakistani standards. My dad owned a tiny take out joint under a movie theater where he served Indian-Chinese fast food. My mom is college educated and had a nice job at a bank. We owned our apartment, a car and a scooter. By deciding to move to America we had to give up everything. We had to give up our property, careers and lifestyles for the American Dream. Being that a US quarter was like 5 million thousand billion Pakistani rupees, I understand why my parents couldn’t afford to give both their children a quarter each to play a video game. We were poor immigrants.
My family came to the states on a visitors visa and took those glamorous jobs that you see white Americans always bitching about. Yup. My mother and brother worked long hours at minimum wage jobs. My mother serving fried chicken at a Popeyes, Louisiana fast, and my brother, a 17 year old kid, worked the much coveted position of sandwich artist at a Subway. My dad lucked out and got a couple of dollars more per hour and health insurance at a job holding doors for people in an apartment building. That’s what it took to keep the family within lower middle class in a crime ridden urban neighborhood on the far Northside of Chicago.
My family worked hard as fuck to afford a decent life and opportunities for my brother and I. After many years of working, my family started a couple of small businesses that created a few jobs, which we weren’t successful at, but we tried nonetheless, to live the American Dream. I went on to work in technology, but that wasn’t a surprise because I was tinkering with computers since I was 11. Please don’t call me for tech support though.
Now, at the age of 32, I own a technology company with my business partner. He is also an immigrant, and he came to the states to attend college, which he paid for by waiting tables at a restaurant. Our company now has four employees, not counting the both of us, and we are about to hire a fifth. Throughout all of this success we never raped anyone.
Many of my immigrant friends have similar stories of leaving their lives behind in their respective countries so that they could build a better life in America. Yet, there is a large group of the voting base in this country that believes immigrants are bad. Not all immigrants, just most immigrants. I personally hear this from people when I go to states with a lot of backward policies that keeps their populace uneducated and uninformed. I welcome discussion with these people, because I’m exposing them to different ideas as well as learning why they believe what they believe. I’ve personally listened to many conservative people bitch about immigrants taking jobs or immigrants committing crimes or that immigrants are coming to this country and overstaying which is illegal and therefore most immigrants are criminals already and should be deported. If I listened to Fox News through one ear, and these people through the other, there won’t be a discernible difference in their xenophobic ideology. This viewpoint they have is completely ridiculous because our country is made up of descendants of immigrants who overstayed their visa, starting with Western Europeans who raped, pillaged and destroyed the native populations for their own benefit.
It’s hard to believe there are so many people that think this way, but I can empathize because if I grew up in their environment I would probably have the same views. Shit, sometimes I get so peeved when I have conversations with my parents, because they still can’t communicate in fluent English yet have lived in the states for three decades, that I want to build a wall and deport them to Mexico.
I can empathize with these people because they don’t know any better, but their extremist views are still bat. shit. crazy. Immigrants have become scapegoats for America’s problems even though it has been corporatists and lobbyists who own our government and media and have been destroying the American dream for the sole purpose of profit as they ship jobs overseas to poor countries where labor costs them pennies while their media empires manipulate facts which helps build an army of indoctrinated individuals that will vote for candidates that say, “Mexicans are rapists.”
The reality is that immigrants are actually good for the progress of our country. That immigrants bring diversity. That immigrants bring innovative ideas. That immigrants create jobs and are beneficial for the growth of our economy. That immigrants can actually help boost lower class workers into the middle class. That immigrants aren’t taking jobs, big business is. That immigrants want to pay taxes for the opportunity to live here.
We are here to work hard and pay our dues so that we can earn the right to be American. We want to build a future of prosperity as great as you envisioned, and we want to build it together, with you. We came here with nothing man. We came here with nothing. And it hurts when you say shit like we are worthless when most of us have done nothing but put in hard work and effort so that we can be American, just like you.