Over last year’s Fourth of July, NPR interviewed a number of U.S. immigrants and what this annual celebration of America’s independence meant to them.
I remember one interview in particular, a woman named Becky Diaz who immigrated from Honduras back in 1989.
She told NPR that she was bothered by a lot of negative rhetoric in the media about immigrants and wasn’t particularly proud of her adopted country.
“And then I asked my mother in law, who herself immigrated from Colombia,” she told All Things Considered. “I asked her, ‘Well what do you think makes America great?’ And she said, ‘I think it’s the immigrants.’
“And that response really impacted me. Because I started consciously realizing the many contributions that immigrants make to this country and that we bring so much flavor and uniqueness and diversity to this country. And it just made me feel proud again to be not only an immigrant but an American.”
Several weeks ago, longtime acquaintances of mine, Roger and Kristi Williams put me in touch with a vibrant young man named Hoang Phan, whom they consider a bonafide example of what immigration has meant and continues to mean to America. Just like Becky Diaz, the Williamses have been bothered by the anti-immigrant rhetoric that marks so much of our political discourse these days.
I met Hoang at his and his wife’s laundromat in Dodgeville, which they opened only recently. We had a delightful conversation, during which he recounted his family’s journey to America and how he considers it a land of opportunity if we just follow the laws and work hard.