March 2004


Pioneer Press

As the oldest child of a large family, my grandfather immigrated to the U.S., ending his journey in Minnesota where he found people who looked and sounded like those from where he had come. For ten years he worked with his hands as an unskilled agricultural worker. Joined later by his wife, who for a long time could only say 'bananas' in the language of her new home, they struggled to raise a family but were thankful for the opportunities of their new homeland, so much so that he helped three of his sisters and two of his brothers to come as well. Their children did better than they, and by the third generation some had graduated from college and started businesses. The grandchildren remembered the ring of the old language, but by the time the great-grandchildren were here references to 
'the old country' and the sound of the 'foreign' accents were gone. 

Regardless of the challenge of a large immigration to St. Paul, who could forget that recent image of a Hmong father roasting a rat over an open fire to feed his family. That's a long way from corn dogs and cheese curds, or even lutefisk. Few of us are more than two or three generations removed from immigrant status.

At a time when American jobs are leaving by the hundreds of thousands to India, China and scores of other countries, and when billions of our dollars and the blood of our young soldiers is pouring into the earth of foreign lands, 15,000 Hmong immigrants seems not worthy of the hatefulness seen on these pages recently. Complaining about immigration is tired, compassionless drivel. I belive Minnesota can accomodate a family whose main meal is rat-on-a-stick.