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Italian Americans

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Submitted By mousie
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Italian Americans

I loved my native Italy. I loved everything about the ties and the bonds we had with our families. We enjoyed each other and worked to keep the family as one. All we had was each other because as southern Italians, we had little resources and were disrespected by the northern Italians. There was a separation of classes and the southern regions were considered the less fortunate, and we suffered within our own country. The Italian government was predominately made up of northern Italians which made life difficult for the southerners. Our taxes on northern goods were hiked up and our property taxes were very high (Mintz 2007). Time had passed and my father decided that we had to leave Italy and re-locate ourselves in a new country. The state of southern Italy was the reason we had to leave. The poverty, the disasters, the bad conditions of living was no longer acceptable by my parents and my father’s decision was to move to American where we could start a better life. Starting a new life I can agree with, but a better life, I beg to differ. Coming to this new land called America was a shock to my system as I had never expected. To begin, my family and all the other families that came across the ocean were not welcomed with open arms. We were piled through like animals, being tested for diseases and being called strange names. The American people could not pronounce our family name correctly and suddenly our names were pronounced in an American manner. Who gave them the right to change our names? We suddenly were not who we once were, but rather people that this new country wanted us to be. Ellis Island is known as the American location where many Italians experienced the first feeling of America. At the same time many Italians also experienced the fear of rejection. Italians were held back for whatever reason the US Government thought was cause for suspect. We had no rights when it came to human protection and were the target of unreasonable searches without cause and without warrants. In Chicago as well as New York, home to the largest population of Italian Americans, Italian immigrants were not allowed out on the streets after dark and had minimal privileges during the day. To add insult to injury, speaking the Italian language on the streets was officially frowned upon by the U.S. Government (American Immigration Law Foundation 2008). We were considered “enemy aliens” by the U.S. Government and our civil rights and freedoms were ignored because we were of Italian heritage. We were the enemy, and we had done nothing to have earned this title. Our only crime was our birthright, and that we were not like “them”. We were different; our food and culture was different, not to mention we spoke another language. We were looked down upon and were the suspect in any situation that may have occurred out in the streets. This place was now my new home. We were finally in the “land of opportunity” and all we felt was hatred against us, and we felt inferior. During the World War II migration to the U.S., over 600,000 fellow Italian residents were fingerprinted and registered with the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation (American Immigration Law Foundation 2008). Their every move was examined by government representatives, and this made the simplest tasks in life so difficult to accomplish because of the constant inspection. We also had to carry around this pink booklet which held our address, date of birth, birthplace as well as our photograph and fingerprint. Along with the booklet we had to register our “enemy alien” status with our local post office and complete questionnaires about our job history, our previous address, our relatives in Italy and any association we may have had with Italian political groups. We had to have this pink booklet on us at all times because if a government agent requested to see it, and we did not have it, we would be arrested on the spot. How can I possibly feel comfortable and welcome in a country that looks upon me and my fellow Italians as the enemy? The sadness in this reality is that we are not respected for the simple fact that we are fellow human beings. We are looked down upon because we are different; because we speak a foreign language and because we eat different foods and our culture are not as it is in America. I do not understand why it has to be this way. I hope that the future holds much happier times for my family and I. Times that we will remember and be happy that we came to this new country that we now must call home. My wish is that one day I can walk down the street and be proud of where I came from and be truthfully happy that my father made the decision to come to the United States. I hope that one day I can share with my children stories of their heritage and the trials that were endured in order to create a better life for our families. I want to be able to tell them they live in a country that holds a deep respect for all its citizens regardless where they come from or the colour of their skin.

References
Mintz, S. (2007) Italian immigration. Digital history. Retrieved November 7, 2008 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/italian_immigration.cfm
American Immigration Law Foundation (2008) Prisoners in our own home: the Italian American experience as America’s enemy aliens. Retrieved November 7, 2008 from http://www.ailf.org/exhibit/prisoners_exhibit.asp
Iacovetta, F. (1993) Such hardworking people: Italian immigrants in postwar Toronto. McGill-Queens Press 1993.…...

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