Letter to the editor: Frelinghuysen should drop Trump immigration agenda

Fridays With Frelinghuysen rally in Morristown, Feb. 24, 2017. Photo by Bill Lescohier
Fridays With Frelinghuysen rally in Morristown, Feb. 24, 2017. Photo by Bill Lescohier

Editor’s note:The opinions are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.

“It’s a good country, America,” my father’s best friend used to say.

“Remember, Joanne, you are lucky to be living in the greatest country in the world; a country people risk their lives to come live in,” my late father used to tell me.

And back in the day, before the current administration’s horrendous assaults upon our environment, women, education and most recently immigration, my father was right.

What absolutely galls and infuriates me about President Trump’s most recent proposal to cut in half the number of immigrants allowed to legally enter this country, and limit those immigrants to only ones who are skilled and speak English, is both historical and personal.

From an historical perspective, this proposal goes against everything our country was built upon and stands for. With the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants.

Many of our forefathers and foremothers came to this country unskilled and unable to speak English. Nevertheless, they worked hard, learned English in time and contributed to our society.

I remember back in elementary school learning about the United States of America as a “Melting Pot.”

The theory was that people came here from different countries and kind of melted into the society, both contributing their strengths and cultures, and emerged as “Americans.”

While there are some problems with this theory—and I much prefer the “Salad Bowl” analogy of America where we all bring and keep our different country of origin identities, languages and cultures, but still contribute to the overall good “salad” of America—the truth is clear that our country became great because of its openness and diversity.

In my own family, my father was the second son of two unskilled immigrants. He grew up very poor, living in a slum tenement on the lower East Side of Manhattan.

He and his brother barely had enough food to eat. He was educated in the New York City public schools and went on to attend Brooklyn College through the City University of New York (CUNY), which was free at the time.

He subsequently attended Brooklyn Law School on a GI scholarship, having been a soldier during the Korean War. The Promise of America was realized for my father, as he became a successful attorney who married a British woman (another immigrant—my mother), raised two children, bought a large and comfortable house in the suburbs and eventually sent both children to college and helped one (me) attend graduate school.

Had my grandparents and others like them not been able to enter this country because of the draconian policies being advanced by our neanderthal president and his supporters, including our Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, our country would be at a loss for these immigrants’ contributions.

My late father would never have become the respected member of the New York judiciary and I would not have become a Speech Therapist, dedicated to helping all the children whom I have the skills and experience to help—not just the ones born here to English speaking parents.

I implore Congressman Frelinghuysen to break with his approval of all the reactionary Trump-advanced policies and listen to his constituents who have voted him into office in the past and can vote him out in the future.

Among the draconian measures advanced by Donald Trump is this horrendous proposal to limit legal immigration. It must be voted down.

Joanne Summer
Morris Township

Joanne Summer emigrated 25 years ago from New York to Morris Township, where she and her husband have raised their children.   She is a Speech Language Pathologist and the owner of Well Spoken Speech Therapy in Morristown.  She traces her ancestral routes to various regions of Europe and the Middle East.

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  1. I support President Trump’s immigration agenda, and you should too! Read history before speaking you “feelings.” Need more be said?

  2. My great-grandmother fled the pogroms in Russia to come here. She didn’t speak English – she spoke Russian and Yiddish. She settled in NY with other Jews like her. Signs were in Yiddish, books were in Yiddish, the newspaper was in Yiddish. My grandparents spoke both English and Yiddish, as did my father. As a child I spoke a little Yiddish, but soon forgot as the generations before me stopped speaking – now the language of our culture is spoken by very few native speakers outside the Hasidic community.

    All of the people above contributed to society, had gainful employment, and were apart of the cultural fabric of this Country.

    Yes, there are people here who don’t speak English. But their kids do. The idea that only people who speak English should be allowed to come to the US is ridiculous. It’s just another way to promote the racial subtext of the Trump agenda. If he were President when my relatives were fleeing for their lives for being Jewish, he would have turned the ship around.

  3. Thank you, Ms Summers, for sharing your family’s story of their immigration and transitional to successful contributing citizens.
    As you have pointed out quite eloquently, we are a nation of immigrants and we are all the better for the cultural diversity and economic contribution of new entrants.
    The current administration’s misguided and questionable policies to restrict immigration would hamper American progress.
    There are pro-immigrant arguments about the social benefits of the cultural inclusion of a far-reaching range of immigrants and moral issues of offering immigrants a home where they can be safe from the physical or economic oppression in their home countries, or just be better off than they were.
    This has been a foundation of our American democracy. Not to say that we have not historically had a love-hate relationship with our immigration waves. Those who were second or third generation immigrants, just like now, often tried to impose restrictions on new immigrants due to fear that the new comers were going to hurt their way of life. But in the long run, after an immigration wave has settled in, America has in hindsight welcomed these folks and realized how much better off we are that they arrived.
    There are also strong arguments for the economic value that immigrants bring to the US. A number of scholarly studies and financial articles have been produced that document the recent and longer-term economic contribution of immigrants to the US economy.
    Economists’ research has shown that the US GDP would be negatively impacted without our current and future immigrant populations.
    Just in last few years, the net number of undocumented immigrants has turned negative as more immigrants leave than enter the US and this is even pre-this administration.
    Even now California is suffering from a 40% reduction of migrants workers to harvest crops; farmers are tilling crops under without pickers. Midwest dairy farms where 40% of their workers are undocumented are seeing their workers not showing up for whatever reasons.
    CNBC reported that we can expect a 20% increase in produce costs in our grocery stores and overall shortages as well milk prices could double due to these immigrant losses.
    Industry indicates (even the Trump family businesses) that they need greater numbers of special skill workers from outside the country.
    Read US history. Historically, whether Italian, German, Polish, Chinese, Irish (who speak different? English) or Hispanic immigrants, 1st generation immigrants struggle with the language whereas the next generation kids learn English just fine. The Administration’s spokesman for the new anti-immigrant policy, Steven Miller’s own immigrant grandmother didn’t speak English. But without immigrants America would be a lesser country instead of The Great America That We Are.
    It is a false narrative that immigrants are somehow hurting existing Americans’ employment. Our unemployment rate is at a decade low. And high tech industries and service industries ( farming, construction, household services, landscaping) are voicing their needs for additional immigrant labor both highly skilled and labor intensive jobs.
    I worry about the motives or the morals of those who would throttle back the flow of immigrants to America. But it is clear that America would be hampered by such a move as many American institutions declare…. businesses, farmers, retailers, churches, educators, service industries, to name a few.

  4. We are not living in 1920.
    Adaptation is required, driven by the negative shift in noisy attitudes that lack gratitude and self awareness. Blame selves, not a president who cares about a denigrated strength of society caused by entitlements and parasitically poor attitudes.
    Herds on corners publically urinating is a far cry from mustering up the fortitude to build a lufe and attend law school. Thats the story that should be modeled. Maybe push that agenda through Speedwell Ave?

  5. The media, press and the rest are increasingly dismissed as we all now see the brain washing and selective agenda reporting. If everyone, from whatever your ethnicity or creed simply became a productive part of citizenship and soceity, most of the probkems would not exist. Attacking white people in an effort to tantrum your way to successful agendas is a hypocritical strategy. Along with being plain old ugly. If you love the US, learn english and respect the laws. If not, nobody is twisting arm to be here, go fight in your own homelands and change those laws. Get on with it already its creating nothing but defensive, divisive nonsense. what ever happened to remembering where you came from and simple grace and gratitude. People cant even speak up anymire because of backlash. So Thats why Trump is in office, the polls were flawed and nobody bothers to engage debate anymore. The actions do the talking. Everyone needs to really look at the truth of what they are about. Entitlement affords tokens, not honest achievement. There are so many people who have overcome adversity, diversity and successfully soared. They definitely did the work and bagged the whining. Spotlight those stories. All people should be proud. Stop the efforts to demean whites in that journey. Its just ugly and unveiled hypocrisy at minimum. Oh, and frankly, its “racist”. Do the work, save the whining.

  6. Great story shared; great accomplishments. It Sounds like, from the details of the story.. A priority was in learning English and valuing the chosen country people moved to. Many today appear to have an attitude which dismisses english. Wrong. To expect all the benefits yet not seek to engage the U.S? What exactly is that mentality built on?

  7. Thank you to Joanne Summer for such a strong, heartfelt letter. I agree wholeheartedly and disagree with the sentiments of the first letter writer who responded above. Like Ms. Summer, the United States I believe in is a welcoming country where you are not judged by how much you make … where if you apply yourself, even if you begin with nothing, you can make a way for yourself. It does not have to be a great financial way. My United States is a place where you can and should be able to stand tall regardless of job, money in the bank, or whether you live in a mansion, a condo, a 1-bedroom apartment, or a boardinghouse room. I believe, as Ms. Summer does, in the American Melting Pot, and have an absolute fear and abhorence of the Alt-Right, White Supremacists who seem bent on making this country all white again. And I wonder why as it was never all white so why should it change? I really don’t think that kind of society would be very attractive at all actually. White people,, well, let’s say white men in particular, can be very mean … very selfish … very cruel. That said, I do not say this to insult the good men who are my life and almost all of those I see and interact with each day. Let’s say for now my statement refers to those Alt Right folks, #45, and all those who support this latest harder-line immigration plan. I’m mystified as to why some people make rather broad-sweeping reference to people ‘not wanting to be bothered’ learning our language.’ How is one to know whether someone wants to be bothered or not? Is any consideration given to those who come to this country scared, worn out, maybe without much formal education to begin with, for whom the learning process is going to be slow? My Norwegian grandmother came to this country with her four sons to join her husband, my grandfather, knowing not one word of English, and in all the years I knew her, she never did learn much more. She was a shy person, a country girl, … a stay at home mother who raised four outstanding citizens, one of whom was my father. She did learn enough English to become a citizen and it was a great source of pride to her as well as the rest of us in the family when she did. If some of the hard line proposals are put into place, I will be really sad to think that she would not have made the cut. And, then I think of myself, as a first-generation American. I just took the RAISE Act test and found out that I would not qualify either. I am over 50, with a US degree, but have a job earning less than $77,000 … no Pulitzer or Nobel Prizes … and below 1.5 million to invest. I wonder if things will get to a point where I will have to go too. I remember that Martin Niemoller poem that ends with the line, ‘ … and then they came for me.’ I do not think ‘They’ will, though, because I will resist and will speak and continue to resist for all those who do not have the wherewithal to do it for themselves. I implore our NJ congressmen and women to do the same and to work hard to stop the current immigration insanity.

  8. More than ever we are fortunate to have Trump in office, and I am very happy that I voted for him. Letters like yours drive that point home in a big way.

    We don’t have a shortage of people here. And we don’t need even more people who can’t be bothered to learn our language and way of doing things. (Check out Hamtramck, MI).

    We should make it harder to legally immigrate to this country, and we need to target the illegals and their enablers. That includes sanctuary cities like Morristown. There need to be harsh penalties for people who come to this country illegally and those individuals, employers, and government types who make it possible.

  9. Ms. Summer,
    Thank you for giving us your personal story. It makes the negative impacts that could result from proposed immigration legislation very real for us.

    It also makes clear that Rodney’s continued support of the Trump agenda is not in line with the wishes of his constituents. It is time he started listening to us. It is time for a town hall meeting where he can explain why he is moving along this path in spite of our objections.