CHICAGO, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) — Almost all the immigrants came to the United States full of dreams. How are they and their children faring after decades living here? Several first and second generation American immigrants have shared their thoughts with Xinhua.
“I only knew America from television, but I was most surprised by the systematic racism.” 41-year-old Karla Thomas came to America from Trinidad 24 years ago to study at University of Mississippi, and has lived here ever since. “The segregation is like no other place anywhere else in recent times. In Trinidad, my neighborhood and friends were of a variety of races, Indian, Asian, Black, Caucasian.”
Thomas has studied U.S. history of opioid issues and referred to it as an example of racism and healthcare problem. “Jail for crack, medical care for opioids, both drugs are from the same source, which brings us to health care,” Thomas told Xinhua. “How can (we) call America the greatest country, while we can’t provide health care to everyone.”
Fifty-six-year-old biology tutor at Malcom X College in Chicago Eva Strobeck echoed Thomas’ words, saying drug addiction is a huge problem. “Until recently, a majority of people on probation was for some sort of Cannabis possession and drug trafficking and that created an incarceration problem.”
Strobeck’s mother married a U.S. citizen and came to the United States from Poland 65 years ago.
Ozzie Ramsey’s parents came to the United States 50 years ago from Jamaica with an American Dream in mind. People would say that this is “the land of the free” and all of these opportunities, and they think one can work hard and get what he wants.
However, too many people in this country are in bad financial situation and have mental health issues, the 47-year-old owner of a photography business said. “America won’t pull back the veil and reveal the whole truth until you get here.”
Healthcare is another huge problem. “Too many people are living in poverty and consuming too much sugar, because it’s the cheapest way to get calories. It’s an unreported epidemic,” Ramsey said.
“I don’t think America has ever been the promise of America,” she stressed.
Thirty-nine-year-old E.B. Barnes said she hopes the United States would be more inclusive. “It’s my belief that the United States has been divided along racial lines and there are groups that are predominantly white that continue to fan the flames of injustice and hate under the guise of politics.”
Barnes left the Philippines to join her father’s family in the United States 31 years ago. Now a higher education consultant and a doctoral student, 39-year-old Barnes still remembered the experience of being followed in stores and publicly mocked when she was young. “It was difficult to feel like a U.S. citizen.”
Sue Murray came to the United States in 1980 when her father’s job transferred her family here from Canada. In the 45-year-old’s eyes, the United States remains mostly the same as when she first came, and the problems are “systemic racism and xenophobia.”
“My first experience at the immigration office in Atlanta was around 1983 – we had to get fingerprinted. The armed guards were yelling at an old Asian couple who didn’t understand English,” she said.
Forty-one-year-old Diane Robertson and her husband were job transferred to the United States from Scotland 14 years ago. She still cannot get used to U.S. healthcare system. “In the U.S.A., it (healthcare system) is totally different. Everything you work for can be taken away with one illness … Healthcare was so expensive and the benefits were nowhere close to covering basic expenses.”
“Even though we make more money here than in Scotland, with healthcare and everything else it probably is about equal, and very hectic,” she said.
Talking about whether an ideal America ever exists, most of the people interviewed gave the answer “No” or “Never.”
“There was never an ideal America in my mind,” said Barnes. “It is precisely a lack of one ideal that allows many to believe that they have a possibility to prosper and find success in the U.S. However, much of the miscalculated and systematic obstacles have continued to oppress those who are different, underserved, non-privileged and impoverished (here).”
“The American ideal is too based on financial gain … It had changed to greed and accumulation of wealth, and that continues to this day,” said Strobeck.
Robertson and her husband even have the thought of moving back to Scotland. “I can clearly see in the U.S.A. that it’s very status oriented … There have been so many opportunities in this country, and wealth in this country, but not for everyone.”
“While you can achieve the American Dream, not all people can get to these levels. The U.S.A. has no buffer for anything going wrong in your life … It’s a scary way to live,” she said.
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