Stand by for yet another wave of immigrants. No, not from south of the border or even from college campuses where 36-year-olds have overstayed their student visas by 17 years and have no intention of returning to Nigeria. Not the Icelanders and Finns seeking political asylum. I am talking about interpreters, some 8,000 Afghans working for the U.S. military in that war. Now that our troops are withdrawing, the interpreters want to come to America, along with their wives and kids.
Machinery is already set up to bring them here: 7,500 special visas have been authorized, but only 12 percent have been issued. One problem might be that the Afghans are second in line to all the Iraqis who have the same goal. Visas for 25,000 Iraqis have been made available, and only 22 percent of the visas have been granted. The Afghans who worked for American companies, including the news media and nongovernmental organizations, are not eligible for the special visas. However, Iraqis are eligible, along with all family members, siblings, parents, close neighbors, and the guy who serves them coffee in the café.
We can’t blame the interpreters, who have been singled out by the Taliban for execution, and we have long promised a home for the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of their teeming shore, the homeless, and don’t forget the tempest-tost. (Yes, tost.) We never ask for the rich, beautiful and brilliant. Besides, the Afghans are only following another tradition we have here: we always get the losers. It began with the Scots, survivors of the Battle of Culloden of 1746, in which the English beat the Scots and the losers came to America. Then the French-Canadians in Canada came after the British beat the French – who hasn’t? They landed in Louisiana and today we call them Cajuns. After Katrina they came to Texas. A brief counter-march occurred after we won the American Revolution and tens of thousands of American loyalists went to Canada.
Down through the years immigrants left their teeming shores following defeat or civil unrest that wasn’t going their way. German wars and the military draft sent millions of German refugees to the U.S. in the 1840s and 50s. Today, Texas is loaded with their descendants. Texas got lots of Czechs, too, as the Hapsburgs kept going to war. In the 1840s the Irish Potato Famine sent the peasants, not the landlords, to America. After our own Civil War, thousands of defeated Southerners followed the GTT rule – Gone To Texas. The Yankee invasion began about 1970.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910 sent numbers of Mexicans to the U.S., especially to Texas. Both preceding and following World War II we received lots of refugees. Give us your tired Cubans. Following the rise of Castro, hundreds of thousands of anti-Castro Cubans came to the U.S. and are now a major political force in Florida. And when the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 collapsed, we received many Magyars (that’s “Hungarian” in Hungarian). Behind them were the Serbs and Croatians who stopped fighting each other so they could move here and fight each other.
But before we yell to pull up the gangplank because we’re aboard, we must consider that we got the brilliant and resourceful, too: Bob Hope and Albert Einstein, ditto for Irving Berlin, Elizabeth Taylor, Alexander Hamilton, 10 U.S. astronauts, more than 40 members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and, and most importantly, Mr. Nguyen, my yardman. Of course, there is also the Tsarnaev family. To oversimplify, they came to America on tourist visas then asked for political asylum then blew up the Boston Marathon. Michael J. Fox, Madeleine Albright, Ted Koppel and Audrey Hepburn could never have been elected President. They were not native-born. Thousands of anchor babies, on the other hand, can.
Another wave of newcomers joined us in 1979 when Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī, aka the Shah of Iran, was overthrown. That time we were joined by losers again, but they were the landed gentry, the wealthy and the owners of their own getaway jets. Every civil war in Central America sent refugees fleeing to the U.S. Salvadoran immigrants to the U.S. annually sent back $30 million to relatives in the old country. So important was this in-flow of money to the repressive government that – get this – in 1995 Salvadoran consulate officials stationed in the U.S. actually helped illegal immigrants file claims for political asylum here so they could continue to send money. In other words, the very government that applicants were seeking protection from was helping them fill out their paperwork. When the wars were over, they stayed. Wouldn’t you?
Then came the Vietnamese. The losing side arrived by the boatload, so to speak. More than 700,000 Vietnamese refugees came to the U.S. after the fall of Saigon. The 2010 U.S. Census counted 1,548,449 people who identify themselves as pure Vietnamese and 1,737,433 in combination with other ethnicities. Of those, 210,913 (14 percent) live in Texas.
All of this brings up several interesting points: both our Iraqis and Afghans helpers are not on the losing side – not yet – but still claim to be in fear of their lives. Do they know something we don’t know? Also, the 8,000 Afghans wanting to come here are interpreters, which should make gaining U.S. citizenship easier since one of the qualifications is the ability to speak English or hit .335. And maybe they can help me converse with the guy on the other end of the phone trying to explain how to fix my MN-66 Super Computer Bak Blast.
Another interesting point is that most of these people were losers back in the old country, but many of them somehow became successful in America, as Andrew Carnegie probably told Alexander Graham Bell. Oh, about that give me your tired, your poor, your great chefs and excellent violinists, as everyone knows, that quote is on the base of the Statue of Liberty, which migrated here from France.
Ashby seeks asylum at email@example.com