This blog post spans multiple decades across several continents, but can be summed up in three simple stories.
The first begins in my home city of Miami, Florida. Daniela Palaez, a North Miami Senior High valedictorian who graduated with a 6.7 GPA and a full scholarship to Dartmouth, made waves last spring when she and her sister Dayana faced deportation to Colombia, even though their father and brother were granted legal residency and citizenship, respectively.
After her request for relief from deportation was denied, over 2,000 protested on the streets of Miami. Today, Palaez is the cause celebre for the DREAM Act, which allows for conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.
As her friends depart for different colleges in the fall, Palaez, the recipient of a full scholarship to Dartmouth, remains uncertain of her fate.
The second story takes place in Russia. Homophobic, anti-gay legislation is on a disturbing uptick. On July 3, Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.
Earlier in June, Putin signed yet another antigay bill, classifying “homosexual propaganda” as pornography. The law is broad and vague, so that a wide swath of pro-gay statements are now subject to arrest and fines. Even a judge, lawyer or lawmaker cannot publicly argue for tolerance without the threat of punishment.
And then there are these, the pictures which give us only a glimpse of what it must be like to be LGBT in Russia right now. It is terrifying, and it is real: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/photos-from-russia-everyone-needs-to-see . The photos of unashamed violent hatred should force us to acknowledge the suffering which may lead a person to flee their country.
The third story takes place in Ireland in the late 1800s. Frank Murray, an Irish emigrant, moved back to the United States as a 20 year old, after his parents returned to Ireland to escape virulent anti-Irish sentiment in Columbus, OH. It was the mid-1850s, and “No Irish Need Apply” signs were everywhere. Undaunted, young Frank Murray made his way to multicultural New York, repository of his life’s major narratives. He fought in the Boer War, and despite his Irish Protestant upbringing, met and married a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn, named Henrietta Nuhause. Frank became a cigar salesman and the happy couple settled in Chicago.
These stories speak to our collective conscience. Speaker of the House John Boehner recently announced that the House would not vote on the Senate immigration bill. It is worth noting that the Senate bill was crafted by a bi-partisan committee. Yet again, the immigration issue remains thorny and highly polarized between political factions. The House version of the bill has a built-in “trigger,” which forces the legalization process to shut down if E-Verify is not in implemented within a 5 year time frame. For the Danielas, the Franks, and the disenfranchised around the world, the stakes have never been higher. The protagonists in these three narratives could not be more different. Yet, the common denominator is hope. The yearning for a better life, a different way, the audacious notion that every human being has inherent self-worth -regardless of race, language, or religion. The correspondingly beautiful notion that since its inception, America has personified that hope for people around the world.
My name is Michael Murray. Great grandson of Frank Murray, an Irish immigrant who arrived in America with small pockets and big dreams, I now help facilitate that incredibly hopeful, yet daunting process for other immigrants. A typical day at my office is comprised of amazing stories from people all over the world. Stories that are sometimes joyful, often sad – all of which form the collective immigrant experience so uniquely American that is inscribed on our currency:
“E pluribus unum” – out of many, we are one. John Boehner and the House Republicans would do well to remember that sentiment.