About 25 years ago my family was one of two which helped a new immigrant family get settled into their new life in Connecticut. Jane and Igor, along with their daughter and his parents, were Russian Jews who seized the golden ticket to the United States when Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, decided to try to encourage its Jewish population to emigrate. Israel and the US were the major players in receiving these people, who often had had no exposure to the religion.
Jewish communities around the country worked to help these newcomers get settled. Apartments were located, furniture and furnishings were donated. We were asked to contribute about $100 and were given a list of toiletries to purchase and place in the apartment. The other family bought some food staples.
Over the next year we worked together to tag team so we would remain in steady contact without overwhelming them. Over the months they started to show us places they had discovered in our own town. That was when we realized the system worked. “Adopting” an immigrant family was a way to help them get settled without a huge burden on any one of us or society overall.
Igor and Jane both got jobs as computer programmers within 6 months of their arrival, accepting positions below the level they had last worked in Russia but soon were making progress as their English skills improved. The young girl went to elementary school and within a few years had no trace of a Russian accent. The older parents were retired, slow to learn English, but made efforts to participate in activities at the Jewish Community Center and received a small monthly stipend that was part of the government’s immigration program for this group.
I remember an early discussion with Jane. I realized no one had discussed birth control and we knew that in Russia, abortion was used pretty regularly as a way to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Jane’s English was pretty good but she did not have the vocabulary that you can imagine would be used in this kind of discussion. It went somewhat like this:
Me: Jane, I was thinking that you and Igor might want an American baby.
Jane: (turning red) Oh yes, but not right now.
Me: You know how not to have a baby right now? (handing her a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)
Jane: I will read this with Igor!
A couple years later, when I moved from Connecticut to Tennessee, the family had purchased a home and Jane was expecting their American baby. In time they received their American citizenship and were active members of their community.
Today we are amazed and horrified at the number of children who are coming over our southern borders. The United States has always been a magnet for people all over the world who want a better place. While many people here are stuck in economic stress, the tolerance for these illegals is low.
The contrast between the organization that helped the Russian immigrants get settled and the current system is dramatic. Surely we can develop a better system.