My mother and her family immigrated to America from Italy. Her father, my Nono Ugo, came first in 1903, followed by my grandmother and then my mother and her brother. They were achingly poor. Ugo worked in a meat-packing plant. His wife, Cesira took in laundry.
My father’s family immigrated from Italy in 1898. My Nono Vincenzo and his wife, Marianina and their five children, including my father, Stefano, lived in a small flat at 76 Carmine St., in Brooklyn. My grandfather worked as a barber. My grandmother took in sewing. All the kids worked as soon as they were able.
My Italian ancestors at that time were described in terms that mirror what Donald Trump is now saying about immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico, and has said about immigrants from the Middle East.
Trump wants us to believe that the people at our border today are somehow different than you and I, and our predecessors. They are not. They too are poor, frightened people seeking asylum, seeking a better life for their children.
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We do have a broken immigration system. Let’s fix it. Not with walls of brick or hate or fear. But rather with thoughtful compassion.
Richard Badalamente, Kennewick