Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/westvalleyopinions/articles/0214howell0214.html
Immigrants children succeed
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 14, 2004
My wife and I recently attended a dinner that honored about 20 college
scholarship winners from the Phoenix metro area. The Friendly House, one of our
community's oldest and most important social service agencies, annually
recognizes local Hispanic high school seniors who have demonstrated their
excellence in and outside the classroom.
The kids were truly impressive. The winner at our table, a senior at Camelback
High School, is already taking college courses and will graduate near the top of
her class. She's also working two jobs outside of school and another in the
school counseling office. Her next stop will be college and then, if Cecilia's
dream comes true, a business career.
Cecilia is an outstanding student and an outstanding young lady. She's also an
immigrant. She came to Phoenix as a 4-year-old from Mexico. Her mother, who was
with her at the dinner, still struggles with English, but Cecilia does not.
What struck me that night, in addition to being so impressed with Cecilia and
the other honorees, was that their story is not uncommon Cecilia, even though
she is technically a first-generation immigrant, is a classic
"second-generation" American. While her parents may not have fully adopted
American ways, she is clearly assimilating - and thriving. Like so many
immigrant children before her, Cecilia successfully straddles two worlds. She
clearly honors and cherishes her Latina heritage, but she has also embraced
mainstream U.S. culture.
One of the arguments often used by those so enraged by the recent surge in
immigration, legal and illegal, into the United States is the supposed lack of
assimilation by this wave of newcomers.
Sorry, but I don't buy it. The path being followed by today's immigrants is
identical to that followed by those who came before them.
Whether they came from Poland or Ireland, Italy or China, Mexico or Somalia, our
immigrants have historically brought their culture and language with them. They
have worked hard at low-paying, menial jobs. They've clustered in neighborhoods
where they establish islands of familiarity in an unfamiliar land. Those
neighborhoods are still alive as the Chinatowns and Little Italys of older
cities and our newer "barrios."
Those immigrant families of yesterday and today also share some common goals.
The objective was and remains a better life for their children - the sacrifice
of one generation to enable opportunity for the next.
Those children of yesterday's immigrants are among our most successful,
productive and prominent citizens today. That was also on display at the
Friendly House dinner. The keynote speaker was one of Arizona's most prominent
lawyers. A member of the Arizona Board of Regents and past president of the
Arizona Bar Association, Ernie Calderon is also the son of an immigrant copper
miner who settled in eastern Arizona.
Friendly House CEO Luis Ibarra, our host for the evening, is the son of
immigrant farmworkers who found a new life for their family in the fields of
southwestern Arizona. The mistress of ceremonies for the evening, Gema Duarte
Luna, is the daughter of another immigrant mining family.
They are among hundreds of examples. These three individuals happen to be
Hispanic, but the list also includes those with roots in Asia and Europe, Africa
and the Middle East. Those children of yesterday's immigrants are a huge part of
our success as a nation today, and I'm very confident that Cecilia and her peers
will be major contributors to our success in the decades ahead.
David Howell is a 17-year Valley resident. He and
his wife live in Phoenix. Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The
views expressed are those of the author.