Giving back

There’s a backlash currently against immigrants. Immigration is a complex topic. Viewpoints vary across the spectrum in the Indian community. These two columns are reflective of the situation:

scroll.in column- Anahita Mukherji

SF Examiner column -Jaya Padmanabhan

The Indian-American community has become a model minority. As someone who has lived here throughout my life, I’ve learned to embrace the best of East and West: Work hard. Follow the rules. Give back. Enjoy the American life with the family.

Fortunately, I grew up embracing community activities and giving back. My best friends come from varied backgrounds. This makes it easier to live here for me and my family. My parents have given back to their community in Texas from the onset of their arrival. A civic conscience is rewarded by acceptance in the community.

For new immigrants (especially H-1Bs and Student visa holders), I encourage maintaining visibility in the communities you are part of. You are here to help America, not India or Japan or some other place. I believe most Americans are eager to embrace new immigrants, especially if they contribute to civic life. It’s good to reach out and make friends who look different and don’t have the same values.

The lack of visibility or indifference to mainstream communities allows ignorance to grow. Most immigrants give back, but not enough Americans know about this. America can be a daunting place. There are bad apples. It’s easy to hide in an ethnic conclave and keep to yourself. This may work for some time, but the perception of being a non-contributor becomes reality. The challenge is overcoming the “us” vs. “them” mentality. It’s always advantageous to be the first one to “break the ice.”

Recent immigrants should participate in American civic life by befriending their neighbors, and serving as community leaders (run for mayor, govern youth sports, etc.). Currently, there are 5 Indian-Americans serving in Congress and countless others serve as mayors and city leaders. Donald Trump has Indian-Americans serving in his administration.

There’s nothing wrong in being aspirational or ambitious, but giving back is as important as scaling the corporate ladder. I believe community service is essential in paving the path to American citizenship for more immigrants. Indian-Americans have successfully achieved greater visibility across America and it helps all immigrants.

The noise against immigrants will diminish if immigrants do their part in giving back to America. America has enabled immigrants to become successful. It’s easier to succeed here than almost anywhere else. I encourage those seeking a green card/US citizenship to really focus on assimilation and giving back to America.

Indian-Americans should lead the way on immigration by doing the right things and not try to circumvent the system as they help new immigrants overcome challenges.

It was hard coming to America back in the 60s and 70s. My parents paid their dues. The system became easier over time, especially during the Obama administration. There needs to be better checks and balances in the current laws. All kinds of people have skirted immigration rules.

I favor a merit-based system. America deserves smart people who really want to be here. The best and brightest enrich American society.

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