Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2000 /5 Shevat, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- FIND A SMALL CLOSET. Keep the light turned off. Get inside and close the door. Squat in a corner, hug your knees tightly, and picture yourself stuffed in a cargo container trying to reach America.
Don't move. Let your calves and toes and thigh muscles get numb. Now, picture yourself cramped there in pitch darkness for two weeks, tossed across the Pacific Ocean with a box full of half-starved, seasick stowaways yearning to breathe the red-white-and-blue molecules of political and personal freedom.
This week, the United States repatriated 246 stowaways back to China. The opportunity-seekers were caught last month hiding aboard cargo container ships intercepted along the coast of Guatemala. Smugglers in Asia – called "snakeheads" -- charge up to $60,000 per head for the rough and risky passage to America. The name of one of these ill-fated boats from the Orient: "Faith."
Over the past month alone, more than 70 cargo-class passengers were discovered in ports along the West Coast, from Long Beach, California, up to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. Three passengers, including an elderly woman, were found dead in Seattle this week aboard a soft-topped container shipped from Hong Kong. Sharon Gavin, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service's western region, claims: "This is a relatively new trend."
Not really. Over the years, I've collected dozens of tales of would-be Americans who have attempted to sail, fly, and belly-crawl their way onto the doorstep of the home of the brave.
There was, for example, last spring's frightful voyage of smuggled Chinese citizens captured at another Pacific Northwest port. They had paid up to $40,000 for their wretched journey to America in a soft-top-sealed receptacle aboard a rickety freighter. The human cargo was discovered by federal immigration agents in Tacoma, Wash.; 19 Chinese passengers, including a young boy, were immediately deported.
According to the Border Patrol, at least 140 Cubans and Haitians have drowned since 1993 trying to get here – including 11 who died last Thanksgiving after their boat, which carried 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez, sank off the Florida coast.
Since 1998, hundreds of Mexicans roasted to death under 120-degree temperatures as they trekked across the desert toward the California border.
Many foreign daredevils strapped themselves to the landing gear of airplanes; a few survived, some fell, most froze to death. One desperate husband from India even tried to smuggle his wife here by packing her in a suitcase. She was killed en route from Germany to Los Angeles - crushed, authorities believe, when heavy cargo fell on her during the ill-fated flight.
To this day, people from around the world are doing unbelievable, unspeakable, life-risking things to come to the U.S. The stories, the images, and the pathos of these liberty-starved refugees remind me why I'm so fed up with liberal Asian-American elites - and other racial grievance-mongers in political life - who never have a good word to say about this country. Patriotism is unfashionable among minority elites these days.
Instead of celebrating their good fortune, these disgruntled intellectuals concoct false nightmares of oppression and peddle overblown claims of discrimination to gain publicity and political influence. Prominent scholars, lawyers, campus leaders, and political activists on the left have grown sick and tired of hearing about the American dream.
Not me. I am lucky and humbled and grateful for every generation of pilgrims that has landed on our shores to make better lives for their children. My own parents emigrated here legally from the Philippines and first settled in Philadelphia, where I was born in 1970. Dad is a neonatologist (he cares for premature babies); Mom is a public school teacher. They were part of a Filipino brain drain that allowed fortunate workers to escape the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos.
Yes, Mom and Dad have known extreme poverty, discrimination, loneliness, personal sacrifice, and other pangs of assimilation. In far smaller doses, I have experienced some of these obstacles, too. But when I imagine the hell-in-a-box journeys of the stowaways who are dying to be Americans, I know there's no place on earth I'd rather be.
G-d bless the
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