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Point ofView: Immigrants a vital part of New York’s history

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Ours is the freest multicultural society. This is why people all over the world crave an opportunity to come to New York City and other parts of the country to fulfill their dreams.

Earlier immigrants have proved themselves to be a great asset to the United States in that they have made it the strongest nation on earth.

At the turn of the 20th century, the American people welcomed millions of destitute Europeans with open arms. Despite ethnic differences and language barriers, they loved their adopted country and worked together to help craft the Big Apple as the world’s greatest city and make the United States a melting pot.

Also, we have attracted the world’s best minds like Albert Einstein and 50-plus Nobel laureates, including five Chinese and an Indian. Einstein, known for his special theory of relativity, was born in Germany and later became a Swiss citizen, but the Nobelist fell in love with this country during a lecture tour. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1940.

After World War II, the United States emerged as a superpower. Since then, it has drawn essentially two types of people from foreign countries — intellectuals to advance their studies and people simply seeking a better life. Among them were two who later became the U.S. secretary of state — Henry Kissinger (under Presidents Nixon and Ford) from Germany and Madeleine K. Albright (under President Clinton) from Czechoslovakia

During the past 25 years, immigration from the third world and Latin America has swelled. Many of these immigrants as well as illegals are from countries whose governments were or are still hostile to the United States. They are technocrats and students or people seeking political asylum. So far this year we have accepted some 16,000 foreigners for political reasons.

Last week, I read a column in this paper complaining about the influx of new immigrants into Queens. The writer thinks “Congress and former President (Clinton) have encouraged floods of people coming to our area without first providing means for housing, schools, sanitary facilities, language training, or acquainting them with laws they should know, or familiarizing them with customs that are important to U.S. citizens, including respect for our country and our flag.”

I take exception to that perception. Congressional members and presidents are elected to work for the welfare of the people they represent.

As far as I know, our government is getting tougher on immigration policies and is working hard to stem the influx of the illegals. The federal government has dispatched agents to apprehend the “snake heads” who smuggle people into this country. Some already have been put in jail.

Is there any concrete evidence that the new immigrants in Queens areas fail to show respect for our country and our flag?

An immigrant myself, I think a great majority of the newcomers are industrious and law-abiding people. They open up new businesses, create jobs, pay taxes and bring prosperity to this part of the city. Today’s Queens is quite different from the one I saw more than three decades ago.

Those who don’t have special skills are content with minimum-wage jobs. Of course, there are some crooks trying to beat the system and rip off the government. But there are bad apples among American-born people as well. Don’t worry. They will get caught sooner or later.

In fact, we owe our unprecedented prosperity in no small way to many immigrants, who have made tremendous contributions in technology and other fields. The unskilled ones also have played a role in improving the welfare of the average Americans. In a way, they are a boon to American economy because they accept low-paying jobs American citizens don’t want. For instance, those who take care of your landscape and those who work as construction-site helpers are generally unskilled immigrants. Without them, you would probably have to push the lawn mower yourselves and pay more for a house.

It takes time for the new arrivals to get accustomed to the mainstream of life. It’s unfair to expect them to live up to our expectations immediately.

Yes, the new wave of immigrants is causing local traffic congestion and housing problems, especially in Flushing and southeast Queens. I am sure local government and community leaders can find solutions to these problems.

We are all God’s children, and we should love and help each other. Condescending attitudes and generalizations hurt everyone.

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