American Dream, the immigrant’s chain.
My son and daughter are US citizens, both happily married and professionally well settled. We (I and my wife) pay them a visit almost every year and spend 3-4 months in US. These fellows came here on family immigration about a decade ago, got their education and became US citizens. The process of their immigration was started by my brother in law (my wife’s brother) who had migrated to America in 1978. In fact on becoming the US citizen, he applied for his all the brothers and sisters and in due course of time the entire clan has landed up in US. My brother in law came to USA following a similar family immigration chain where his father in law had petitioned for his daughter and son in law. My brother in law’s children are well settled and one of the them is a doctor and the other a veteran turned businessman.
One day while taking my morning walk, I thought of the origin of this migration chain. Surely the earlier immigrants would not have been sponsored by anyone, since they had no one in this alien land. So they would have somehow reached the place, did some hard work got legal residence status and then sponsored their family. That is how the present generation is enjoying the American dream. So I carried out bit of research on the net and found the following interesting facts.
After the discovery of the new world by Columbus, many other sea farers from Europe ventured into the unknown land in the sixteenth century and adventurous people from many European nations like England, Portugal, Spain, French, Irish started landing in the newly found continent. This carried on well into the eighteenth century. The British Kings ruled most part of North America including Canada. As we know that 13 US states fought for freedom from the British in quest of self governance from1775-1783 under the leadership of George Washington and eventually attained it. Till this point anyone who could reach US became the legal resident. Up to now besides Europeans, there were Africans in US who were brought as slaves. The Chinese and Japanese immigrants started pouring into USA in early 19th century. The first Indian migration to US was reported in about 1820 or later. They came by ships and landed on the West coast. These persons were not educated or skilled but were farm workers. They toiled hard by doing manual labor at the ports and thereafter worked in the farm lands in California. Many Indians were brought by the Englishmen as their servants from southern India. Similarly up to the end of the 19th century Jat Sikhs (the farming community from Punjab, India) started landing up in USA and Canada. Till now there was no set immigration policy and those who could reach US became its citizens. In the beginning of the 20th century say in 1917 and 1924 very restrictive immigration laws were enacted which put an end to any migration from the Asian countries. Thus this virtually stopped Indian’s immigration. As of 1960 there were only 12000 persons of Indian origin in US. The 1965 act of Immigration and Nationality brought in the family sponsored immigration where as one member who was US citizen could sponsor his blood relations. This act also fixed quotas for employment based immigration as skilled labor and highly educated persons were the need of the day. The immigration prospect was further improved by the immigration act of 1990. As of now Indians constitute over 2 million which forms about 0.7% of US population. Thus we see that from 1960 till today the Indian immigrants population has increased from a mere 12000 to 2000000, an increase of 167 times . These figures do not count the number of undocumented or illegal Indian immigrants who would be in the range of about 300000. From time to time under various administrations the undocumented or illegal immigrants do get relief such as work permit leading to green card which is followed by citizenship. Though this type of immigrants face great difficulties like low wages, no medical cover and sub standard living conditions but they still wait to get some relief and somehow cover their journey to citizenship so that they can now officially sponsor their relatives. Those highly qualified individuals those who follow employment type visa like H1B also have to wait for a considerable period to get their green card and subsequently the citizenship. Every year about 86% of the high end jobs in the H1B category go to Indians. There are many engineers, scientists and doctors of Indian origin in US.
Having given you a brief summary and perspective of the immigration, let me turn back to the story of my brother in law who was first to come to US from our family and find out who was the original chain or link who initiated the process. It all started with an ex serviceman of the Indian Army Subedar (One Junior Commissioned Officer – JCO) , retired from service in 1962 and found that he had two grown up daughters who were college going and were to be married. His wife was a house maker. With very little pension and no means managing the house became very difficult. One night this person let us call him Lal Singh disappeared from his house. He did not tell his family as to where he was going. The family was in great distress, they tried to search him but of no avail. When this person did not return home even after eight months, the family presumed that he would have died.
Then one day, Lal singh’s wife got a telephone call (the telephone instrument was with the village headman, who informed the family and called his wife to his home). Lo and behold on the other end of the phone was Subedar Lal Singh speaking from USA. He told his wife that he along with his friend had taken a ship journey to Canada via Europe and had reached Canada in about 3 months time. He then worked as a labor in Toronto and later with the help of someone had crossed the border to land up in US. The year was 1963 and it was said that a new immigration act was in the pipe line which finally got enacted in 1965. Lal singh got a work visa and after about three years he got the green card and by 1970, Lal Singh had become a US citizen and set up his own small business of AC repair. His family followed soon and by 1971 his wife and two daughters were in USA. Since his daughters were of marriageable age he found well educated boys in India who also migrated officially on family visa. One of his son in law sponsored his father who came to USA quickly in 1974. His son in law’s father who happened to migrate to USA had two daughters . One of his daughter was married to my brother in law.
Since my brother in law was not doing well professionally in India, his father in law sponsored his daughter . Thus my brother in law came to US in 1978 with his family and was instrumental in getting his four sisters and one brother and their family to USA. That is how my kids migrated and are citizens of US.
These younger generations are definitely living the American dream. May God bless them. We also like the country and pay visit to our kids quite often, in fact have been coming here for the last ten years. But due to personal reasons we would not like to break with our roots and therefore we always get back to India and would be content in living there.