tv The Stream Al Jazeera April 19, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm EDT
and his controversial relationship with hugo chavez >> talk to al jazeera only on al jazeera america >> hi, i'm lisa fletcher and you're in "the stream." the american dream, for immigrants, we'll talk about the realities of making it in the usa. our dynel tall producer, rajahad our digit al producer is bringing in your comments from social media. every. >> the american dream connects all of us. i am the child of immigrants, traveled around the world. >> we all are technically?
right? a couple of generations farther back. >> that's the next thing about america. i have gone around the world. there is something about this american dream. people real fascinated by it t americans, immigrant citizens believe in it but our community is a bit cynical if it can be achieved due to a lot of the hardships people are facing. it seems it is more about survival rather than thriving. the american dream used to be work hard and you shall receive. it is no longer the land of milk and honey. fran says it's no longer the land of opportunity but we have a great definition. it can be mean being content and finding peace in job and family life. >> that content is a big one. >> for everyone. >> millions of immigrants flock to the u.s. for a shot at the american dream we were talking about but it's not always easy street in the land of the free. immigrants have a 20% poverty rate and economists project the children will urn up to 15% less
than their non-immigrant counterparts from lang barriers and cultural difference to basics like health insurance and jobs. some are surprised by the demand of the transition. >> my my graduation to the united states was quite interesting. i think it is the same story for other i am grant, particularly if they don't speak the language. whenever there is a feeling of loss, so i think i was bewildered for quite awhile. >> the opportunities, i finished school, got employment. i live a very comfortable life that i wouldn't be able to live back in bangladesh if i were there. >> for others, the opportunity that comes with life in america can't be overstated. despite the recession, tough job market, america is the top destination for i am grant with more than 40 million calling the u.s. homes. for immigrants and their families, what does the american dream look like now? here to share his story is tony hernandez who created the
immigrant archive project. he and his family i am graduated from cuba in the 1960s. he bra hemmoved to the u.s. from pakistan when he was 13. >> ann policien is from the philippines. she moved here when she was 15. thanks so much to all of you for being on thestream. tony, you have interviewed hundreds of immigrants pretty much about everything. has the american dream changed in the last few decades. >> i don't think the american dream has changed so much. the american dream means something different for everyone. for some, it means coming to the u.s. and striking it rich although i have to tell you, based upon over a thousand interviews i conducted, that tends to be the minority. when people were simply coming here for an opportunity to live a better life. in the case of my parents, it was for a chance to not live in a communist country, to be able
to pursue their dreams. not necessarily tied to material goods where i think the story changes somewhat is in the last 20 years, we have lost so many manufacturing jobs in this country. when my parents and i arrived here in the late '60s, we poved to northern new jersey, and there were blue collar factory jobs everywhere. my father, you know, until today, he says if i lost a job, i knew i could find another one that afternoon before i arrived home. wel well, that's no longer the case. so for immigrants with limited education, it's become exponentially more difficult than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. >> what's the promise of a better life mean for you and your family? >> you know, as far as american dreams are concerned it's often making it, a big part of miss making it in the u.s. is to find a community.
are expectations different than they were in the 1920s? i think about my grand parents coming over. it was a hard time but it was a different sort of feeling then. >> it was a different feeling. we also tend to sort of glam orrize what that experience was life. the immigrant experience has never been easy in this country. every single immigrant waves has been met with tremendous amount of resistance and we tend to take that, you know, we tend to forget over the course of the history. so you take a look back at the german i am grant wave, a substantiatecial wave. i can show you quotes from ben franklin saying unless this group is stopped, they are going to overrun the country. they are not smart enough to learn to speak english. we know what happens. they were indeed smart enough to learn the language and they have made wonderful contributions. follow them up with the irish.
>> there were signs throughout new york that read nina, no eye require need apply. we tend to, to forget what they all went through. part of what we try to do with our project seeing that there is this sort of cycle where the children and grandchildren of immigrantsibilities become disconnected from their family story and some become the oppressors of the next wave, the person or the people their own family members feared or perhaps hated. how can we break that cycle by making the stories that the true stories of the immigrant experience available to everyone? >> tony, our community has been chiming in on facebook. julieian says there is no more american dream. it's a nightmare unless you are the top 1%. the definition of american dream, freedom. jude who says as an immigrant, it remains the same for myself and my family. america is the land of opportunity and education is the
key but on the flip side, listen to shigan? >> i thought everything was posh and pretty. yes realize that u.s. has the same issues of poverty and homelessness that any other developing country does. >> you are the daughter of philippineo immigrants. i mean, look. the narrative back home, especially for my family in pakistan, a lot of people think america is paved with gold. they come here and say, no. america is paid with blood as well. what to you and your fame was the definition of the american dream? and did you realize it when i came here? >> my father came in the mid '80s and at that time, there was a lot of political and economic turmoil in the philippines. so our future was uncertain. he brought us here for me and my brother to follow later, but for me, the american dream is being able to fulfill, you know, not
necessarily wealth but come forces for a home and to be able to provide a safe environment and for good education for my son and i feel that i have achieved that so far. i am in the right place. i work for a major company. and i have been able to put myself where i need to be, you know, for the future. >> talk a little bit about your experience. tony touched on this idea of racism and discrimination even from former immigrants, placed upon the new immigrants. what's your experience been like in that regard? >> well, if you are familiar with what was going on somalia in the last 20-something years compared to the destruction, killing, all of those, the situation in somalia, any kind of racism or anything we face here would be simple because our
own people who are just, you know, feeling -- we are fighting in there, which was affecting our life. but coming here, there are things that we were not exiting like the racism and some discrimination that exists here but again we are here about slavery and did i come here before us? those who were here before us, all of that change things we -- i mean, there was discrimination. we have seen it. my first job that i took about i had this job while i was a student was to become a taxi driver. i was driving taxi and doing that job, yes, you would have every single individual in your car and racial discrimination.
it goes from there to a higher level like what is going on tennessee that you will see people, after the muslim, the mosque buildings and now about the cemetery, all of those are going at a higher level that affect these people. but compared to the american dream and the opportunity that we can get here, that's a tiny fraction. >> is there a common threat that you noticed among all of the immigrants that you interviewed? >> there are so many. there were so many. so many commonalities? >> yeah. that's what surprised me about the project. perhaps latino immigrants, it's a latin on thing. that hasn't been the case. vietnamese that his story could be juxtapose for that of the ceo of at&t mobibity who arrived
from cuba at the age of 5 the same way this vietnamese i am grant did. there are many commonalities. >> if you had to pick one that stood out the most, what do you think it would be? >> tremendous resilience, i think that's whattunites most if not all immigrants. it requires a tremendous leap of faith to leave everything that's known and comfortable, your friends, your family, your language, your culture in search of something else. i think that's really the one experience that ties immigrants of all nationalities together in a very, very meaningful way. >> how does it feel to be the first american in your family? and what are native born americans missing when they step back and look at their communities? we are going to get to that right after the break.
>> welcome back, we're talking welcome back. we are talking about the immigrant dream. struggles, expectation and belief that all things are possible. sometimes even kind of funny as immigrants learn to navigate new territory? >> my parents didn't speak english. we learned english quickly. wherever we went, we were their translators, their representatives. i still remember i was seven and we had never ordered pizza. my dad said you should order for united states. when the lady came, we dent
understand it was to be shared. so, i ordered add large for my dad, a medium for my mom. i considered myself a big girl so medium for me and a small for my brother. we asked what it's like to become one of the first americans in your immigrant family? >> a nation of immigrants. we got tweets in and i have been waiting to order briani for pizza. it was a clean slate when he came. it was no expectations and just simply accept all that there was the good and bad. >> a good. i lien said i didn't speak english but was able to learn well enough to graduate from the-year-old of maryland. i was only 18 years old and the bad, tony was talking about it, i moved from japan to florida as a kid, had to endure some pearl harbor, hiroshima taunts for a few years. >> i want to get back to the
idea of what it means to be the first american in your family. we were looking at that video, ordering all of the pizzas but it brings up more serious situations like these kids having to navigate an adult society on behalf of their parents as their parents integrate and may have a more difficult time than the kids do. >> absolutely. >> child becomes the first american in the family. they are the onesgo who are going to school, who have more access to a bilingual sort of world. they become the lifeline to society. when there is an emergency, the one who knows thousand to speak the language. i can't tell you how many folks i have interviewed who relay stories that they would have a broken leg or in one case was hit by a car, had broken ribs and a broken leg and at the age of 7, before they wheel them into the operating room, he is explaining to the mother what had happened because the doctors couldn't communicate with the mom. so they are forced today grow up
at a very, very early age. >> what do americans born here in america miss out on because they are not seeing through the same eyes as those experiencing this immigration experience? >> well, they were here before us us. few were native to the land. the rest were i am grants. and if you are an immigrant by yourself, your father, your granted gary, your great grandfather was an immigrant. immigrants are moving energy they come here with wonderful experience, with a unique language. the somalis. kurdish did. they come with their experience and an energy, a new energy that revives. whenever they come to an area,
that may make that area talk about what is going on, the food, the tradition, the cultures that they have. >> you talk about the moving energy. nick says immigrants are some of the hardest working people. tony, he talked about resilience and rockbie tweeted as an immigration attorney, my clients are most challenged by language access issues and cultural differences sand mitaki, iranian dissent. it's a shared commitment to sharing finite resources. it's about economics and speaking about sharing, you were the one talking about community. look. we are both sons of pakistani immigrants. what's interesting is oftentimes in the community, when they want to knock us, they say you are becoming too american as if it was a bad thing.
you spent half of my life in the u.s. and you become an ambassador of the new country you i mmigrate to and your old country and you have to strike a balance of what you expect of the new country and what you leave behind. >> that's a struggle. it is stigmatized to become too american. you have to find a balance. it's a paradox actually. you could stay within your own community and be comfortable like your home country or integrate. and if you don't integrate, you can't be part of the community. so, it's a tough balance.
ann, you came to the fiphilippis ant went back for college. did you feel the pull? >> it was interesting. when i first came to the states, i lived in hawaii for a year and went back to finish my college because i didn't think i could afford here when i came back to the u.s., i was already 21. i was having a hard time looking for a job in silicon valley even though i have a internet backgrou background. most of the people who interviewed me thought i was too young. they thought i was 12 years old which was funny, but my struggle was, i thought i spoke very well english but i had to relearn myself to learn and usage of words was different. i had to learn how to drive, which was a big challenge and do my own taxes and to manage the
credit that was so readily available, it was scary. so thouse were my challenges. when i moved to the east coast, that's when my career got started. i have been on a roll since then. i have been able to go to where i need to be. >> go ahead? >> that language, when i first came here, i spent six months obsessing about my accent. every minute i was alone, i would practice different ways of saying words and at that time, i felt like if i had an accent i would be an outsider. i think that is a big prior to for immigrants. oftentimes if you have an accent, you are aren't -- at least i had the impression that if i had an accent i wouldn't be accepted the same way and obsessed about it.
>>. >> some think i have an accent believe it or not. a daughter of a bangladeshi immigrant, give a listen? >> when my parents moved to the u.s., they did every intention of moving back after my dad finishedgrade graduate school. when they saw their first child was a girl, they decided to remain in america so i would have a better future. my family and the american dream means opportunity. >> tony, every immigrant community has this mantra that we will eventually go back quote, unquote to home. every single community i have encountered. wh when does that generation have that realization that home is here and how does that affect them? >> it depends you are right.
many immigrants come with the idea that we will work hard for three, four, five years and eventually go back. it's been my experience after de conducting all of these interviews, that's a very small percentage that actually do, do go back and for the children, the -- whether immigrant or u.s. born, second generation, they sort of live two worlds. >> they live with a foot in the american society and one foot in their home country and they experience something that i found to be universal experience. where is it that they really belong? when we are here, in my case, folks say we are here. you are very cuban, very pakistani and when we go home, right away, the way we dress is different. >> identity crisis >> total identity crisis. for millions of us, we sort of inhabit this sort of no man's land where we collectively live in two different cultures but can't stake a flag in any one space. >> when we come back, i want to find out if you have noticed a point where those things merge for people. coming up, though, despite the
>> we have been lucky enough to have been received by this country with open arms, and to be able to work here, to dream and to search and to achieve our dreams in this land, which is the greatest country on the face of the earth. no doubt. >> welcome back, we're talking about the american dream, the u.s. is the top destination worldwide for immigrants, and we're talking about how immigrants are straddling two worlds, and they almost have two identities. you've done thousands of interviews, and are there places where they miles per hour?
>> there are points where they merge clearly. the younger immigrants tend to want to fit into american society and be very american, look very american and sound american. and we find that once they reach a certain age and the peer pressure is over, it's a reenergance process, and they want to learn about their home country, and start to realize they're not american. though they feel american, they are something different. they're a hybrid and they want to find out the other half of their background, and it normally leads to a wonderful wake thing if you would. >> will the american dream change? >> i think it will always be there. i travel a lot for work, and wherever i go, people are how do i get there? but the thing that people don't realize is the toughest part of the american dream is after you have already made it here.
it's so difficult to come to the u.s. that it's hard to think about all of the hard work when you come to the u.s., and so i think that that dream will struggle. >> tony, what you were saying to lisa: and ann, i'm going to to you, in 2014, with all of the problems we have, can the american dream still be achieved for immigrants coming ashore. >> absolutely. i believe that for all of the work and sacrifice, the american dream is very much alive today. it's not just for myself and for my son, but it's not just for immigrants either. even for those born and raised here, who have been here for years, they can still pursue the american dream. and that's to be comfortable for
themselves. >> and that is so much of it, right? what your individual definition is of fulfilling that dream. >> absolutely, and it may mean something different for everyone, as i mentioned, in the case of my parents, they arrived here, my father had a third grade education, my mother, a 6th or 7th grade education, and i remember them working extremely hard. my dad worked two full-time jobs, seven days a week for three years before he had his first day off. but all that they hammered into our psyche back then, the importance of an education, you have to go to school, and we'll put food on the table and put a roof over your heads, but you study so you don't have to work the way we have. >> thanks to all of our guests for sharing their stories. until next time, we'll see you online at