As US Congress slowly moves closer and closer to necessary immigration reform, I decided to drive out to Mount Kisco, New York, where my journey as a new resident of The United States of America began. Thankfully, I have since become a proud citizen of USA.
I arrived to this great country with my professional parents and two older brother with little money and less worldly belongings. I was a little white kid from Cuba, with European roots. We temporarily moved in with my aunt, uncle and cousin in this northern Westchester town until we were able to stand on our own and for that reason, I am forever in debt to my blood relatives and my family's generosity. Mount Kisco was founded in 1850 shortly after the arrival of the railroad. Kisco is derived from an Indian word kiskamenahook meaning “settlement near a brook”. Mount comes from the 623-foot hill northwest of town.
Nowadays, I feel uneasy checking the "Hispanic" box in many official forms, because of the possibility of any negativity this label may carry with it. On the contrary, Hispanics arrived in this area a long, long time ago and history will support it.
We all like to live in America, but we have never considered ourselves to be invaders and never, ever charity cases. Like most law abiding folks, we are Americans investing in this nation's future. We're also not asking for any special treatment, but simply an acknowledgment that we belong in America would suffice. All who arrive here to stay are investing in our new nation.
Agreed that everyone with a good job should be grateful of The United State of America. But on the whole, immigrants contribute as much as those who were fortunate enough to be born here. We have good reason to come here, but don't forget that many others before us did also and the US has a very good reason to welcome us.
Although I am grateful for the reception accorded and the opportunity afforded to my family and me, everyone should consider that the advantages have not been one-sided. With my family, America obtained seasoned professionals ready to hit the ground running at zero cost to the US taxpayer, or any social agencies. I'm a university professor and I sometimes joke with my students that I am part of Latin America's foreign aid to the United States. On a more serious note, our credentials were what made us eminent candidates for fast-tracking us through the immigration formalities and those processing fees for which were totally paid by us.
In the racial classification found on official forms that continue to frame Hispanics identity, all my peers are designated "LATINO." That classification doesn't accommodate the complexity of our historical and cultural background. A cynic might argue that it helps fill in a demographic column. We are bureaucratically attractive to the United States as an easy distraction from America's beggaring of its own minorities. Many of us take seriously our responsibility to help our adopted country to increase the pool of qualified homegrown talent of all culture and ethnicity, teaching not just through our classroom pedagogy but as models and mentors.
Please know that not only do immigrants not drain the American economy, we are contributing to it each and every day. I'm of a generation made from deliberate immigrants, who arrived planning to stay. Others from earlier generations were "accidental immigrants", who merely wanted to work a while, make as much money as possible, then return to their homelands. Years later, they remained optimistic that they would be going back soon. But somehow their bills never paid off and the nest egg never seemed to be there, so they stayed put. Whether we're considered deliberate, or accidental Americans, whether we're laborers, professional employees, self-employed, business owners, or private inventors, remember that the bulk of our earnings stay in the good old USA.