My blog was never intended to be about political discourse. It still is about me, medicine and my personal journey here. But this journey would not have been possible if 40 years ago the political climate on immigration was as toxic as it is today.
After the bloody civil war that gave birth to my native country of Bangladesh, a young educated Muslim man who escaped extermination, seized an opportunity to escape famine, post-genocide political upheaval of his mother country to chase the American dream. It’s as genuinely American as any other immigrant story. With a few dollars in his pocket and a can-do attitude, my father came to New York and established a legacy as the Christopher Columbus of our entire extended family.
It’s that American idea of hard work and self reliance that led him to become a successful engineer in New York City’s department of transportation. He was responsible for the roads and bridges that people of all faiths, colors and ideals traverse daily in New York City. It’s the same roads and bridges that certain business men used daily on their way to becoming national political candidates. It’s that same infrastructure that came under attack on 9/11, just a few blocks away from his office. Covered in debris, he escaped the fallout, walking for hours, side by side with people from all over the world. Once again, he found himself in a war zone, attacked by his fellow Muslims.
Through the years, despite these experiences he remained a devout, pragmatic and moderate Muslim. It is a perspective that influenced my sister and myself but also the numerous family members he helped support and immigrate over the past 40 years. It is a family tree, entering it’s 3rd generation, littered with remarkable success stories defined partly by the fact that we are all Muslim, but just as importantly, as Americans dedicated to honor, community and service.
When we reflect on our family’s journey to this moment in time, we rarely contemplated the “what if” he had never immigrated. But now we do wonder with the myriad of immigration proposals being suggested that target specific people like Muslims. What if he had been kept out? America certainly would not be safer for it. America would have only lost a small but vital part of its soul.