IMMIGRANT ASSIMILATION TO AMERICA INCLUDES UNEDUCATED PEOPLE FROM THE COUNTRYSIDE!


I heard on the news this past Friday about the NPR interview of White House Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, and his statement about illegal immigrants as “overwhelmingly rural people” who would not “easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society.” Kelly further cited immigrants' education levels, English-language ability and general workplace skills as potential barriers to assimilation.

Needless to say, I reflected on our family's four grandparents who traveled by boat from Ireland to Ellis Island (New York City) at the turn of the 20th century, with education levels which were of a 4th to 6th grade level. (see above Ellis Island archive photo for same time period).

Granted, Chief Kelly's comments affirmed our Irish grandparents speaking the English language already, but what about all four of them coming from rural farm areas in three different counties in Ireland? And they either started working in the United States in the Rochester, New York state rock quarries; in the Bisbee and Globe, Arizona state mines or as servants and nannies in New York City! And they ended up as lower-level office aides in San Francisco where all four finally settled in their late teens and early 20's!

Our maternal grandfather, Patrick David Cunningham, studied and achieved gaining a license "To Chief Engineer of Steam Vessels" (working in the steam engines of ferry boats in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay, and in the Standard Oil tankers along the entire Pacific Ocean coastline). "Paddy" Cunningham, achieved this award from the United States Department of Commerce (Marine Navigation), on June 3, 1943, in San Francisco, California. He must have been in his early to mid-50"s then (five days before I was born). Our paternal grandfather, Garrett Moore, became a Section Boss Foreman for the Southern Pacific Railroad, working 46 years until his retirement at age 76, many times supervising the laying of new or repaired railroad tracks in the East Bay with an all-Mexican immigrant crew.

Our father, Nicholas G. Moore, retired after 42 years with the Southern Pacific Railroad, working his way up from cleaning cattle cars on trains at the age of 17, to retiring as the youngest Master Mechanic of the entire Western Division, including 11 railroad states. Our mother, Rose P. Cunningham, was also a first generation Irish-American, born in the Oakland Bay area, and both having graduated from high school. Our mother became an executive secretary in the Ferry Building in San Francisco before marrying at the age of 26, and raising 7 children.

My six brothers and sisters, and I, all graduated from college with a bachelors, a masters or a law degree. We became school teachers and aides, a registered nurse, a psychology counselor, a chiropractor, a health care administrator and a CEO/Chairman of an international finance institution in New York.

According to the Washington Post newspaper General Kelly's Irish ancestors were wagon drivers and fruit peddlers from the Irish countryside; and his Italian mother's family included a great-grandmother from Italy arriving in 1910 who did not speak English for 10 years (Washington Post, May 10, 2018).

General Kelly's comments, and the high public position he holds to the President in the White House, should be upsetting, and unacceptable, to the many Americans who are descendants of rural born and poorly educated legal immigrants, and to the legacy that many of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents so adequately provided us all.

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