#FocusImmigration: Taking the Focus off the Immigration Stigma

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Published April 9, 2019
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The Montclarion
Claudine David | The Montclarion

For far too long, people around the globe have used the word immigrant as a way to make people of different races, religions and cultures feel inferior to the rest of society. This ongoing prejudice has caused many people to leave their home countries in search of acceptance.

The country that people would turn to for a safe place to live, where they would have the freedom to express themselves however they please, has been the United States, the land of opportunity. Lately, in this nation that was built on the beliefs of “freedom and justice for all,” many people have started to replace the word “all” with “some.”

Just like the U.S., Montclair State University is very diverse in culture with students, faculty and staff coming from different backgrounds and customs, ready to share them with the rest of the campus community. Unfortunately, with all of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has taken the country by storm, students are becoming more reluctant to embrace their heritage in fear of harassment and judgment from their peers.

Mass hysteria has been spreading from Washington D.C. regarding immigration, causing many people, including college students, to forget about the cultural beauty of it. This beauty is constantly overshadowed by controversy and political agendas that continue to be an energy source to spread hate.

What students and others need to remember is that immigration does not have to solely revolve around politics, and that immigrants, just like everyone else, are human beings. They have so many cultural stories about their lives that are never told because of hard news that is continuously pouring in straight from the White House or the U.S.-Mexico border.

While these stories are important for the public to be informed about, there are others that can send a more powerful message to the world that immigrants have worked hard to get to where they are now and to inspire others they could one day be successful, too.

Washington D.C. has drastically changed the narrative for immigration, but many students at Montclair State can’t help but remember the classic Ellis Island stories they were told in elementary school or even by family members, where immigrants would sail across the world and cheer when they saw the Statue of Liberty as they pulled into the harbor. These were the stories that gave immigrants hope.

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I love this photo of my maternal grandparents Salvatore and Irene Liguori Carozza. They were REAL ITALIAN, from the "other side," and lived their lives defined by Italian traditions. I don’t know where this photo was taken but it cracks me up because they were the least likely couple to be hanging out in a field of flowers…They were from the Bronx. The basic form of communication was yelling, vinyl covered the furniture, and food was at the center of everything. They were quirky. My grandfather was a crooner, he sang Italian songs at my parents wedding. They called him Torre, which sounded like Tommy, and my mother tells me I was named after him.??! When I was a child we lived with them in the Bronx. My grandpa was a wonderfully colorful character, rugged and old-world. A plumber, he drove a big old Chevy Impala with vinyl seats. One of my fondest memories was going to work with him when I was a kid, sitting in the back seat, no seatbelt, copper pipes sliding across the car floor, while he sang Sinatra songs. He died when I was 8, and his loss had a cataclysmic effect on the family. My grandmother moved to Florida for the warm weather, and the family was forever fractured by her departure. My grandmother was an amazing cook, who taught me how to make gravy, a recipe I have handed down to my son who also likes to cook. She loved horseracing and gambling, often taking my older brother and me to Belmont racetrack when we probably should have been in school… My mother raised us in the Italian tradition, like her mother, Sunday dinner was at 1pm, and she wielded a mean wooden spoon when my brothers and I misbehaved…My grandmother lived into her 90’s, we’re not exactly sure, papers got mixed-up at Ellis Island…She had a very rough go late in life after going blind from macular degeneration. I miss both of them so much….I tell this story with pride, and encourage you to tell your immigrant story with these hashtags: #MyImmigrantStoryIs #FocusImmigration

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Without immigrants, the U.S. wouldn’t be the cultural melting pot we all know and love today. There are many positive things that immigrants have brought to this country that allow others to embrace it as well. They have taught us about new languages, dances, food and other fascinating traditions that Americans have become obsessed with and have even put their own personal touches on.

Social media has been used as a way for others to spread their anti-immigrant rhetoric, but with the help of a larger community, those messages of hate can be overshadowed by those of love, inspiration and unity.

The School of Communication and Media and The Montclarion encourage students, faculty and other members of the Montclair State community to share their stories using the #MyImmigrantStoryIs and #FocusImmigration hashtags and to help put an inspirational, lighthearted spin on a controversial topic. The more people can get involved, the better chance that the word immigrant can once again be something for many people to be proud of.

All of us have our own ties to immigration; they’re just waiting to be found.

 

 

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