"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The American Dream

A fact pattern that I've seen, frequently, has to do with new immigrants. Not illegal immigrants - I'm referring to your typical, legal immigrant who generally comes to the United States after being sponsored by a family member who is a citizen. We have a large number of African immigrants in this area who use this method to bring family members to the United States.

Marrying to come to the United States has a long history. In my work, I don't see very many mail-order brides. You know - the kind where some white, middle aged guy is looking for a sweet young virgin to rub his feet and fetch him a brewski on demand. You know what I am talking about. He thinks he owns her body and soul and she is just waiting to get established so she can dump him and sponsor her boyfriend from back home. I know it goes on but I haven't had that particular fact pattern to deal with. So I'm not talking about that pathetic scenario.

Another thriving practice is people marrying their "cousins" back in the homeland, helping them to get set up, then divorcing and going back to marry another "cousin." Everyone knows the score and despite the inevitably broken hearts and visitation disputes that arise when babies appear on the scene, the underlying scam to get them here is respected between the parties. I don't understand it but I see it all the time. If you live in a war torn country and have seen family and neighbors slaughtered, I suspect this doesn't seem like a particularly unethical way to go.

To my way of thinking, a sadder scenario is when I see young people who have been separated from their parents during war time coming to the United States sponsored by a parent who may or may not have seen them in years. That they are being reunited in the United States should be cause for joy. Repeatedly, however, I have seen young women embracing the "American" lifestyle - for example, dyed red or blond hair straightened and bobbed, trendy boutique clothing, skinny, skinny, skinny, who have no skills or education. They take up with a series of gentlemen from their home country who have been in this country for awhile and have established homes and jobs. Sometimes these gentlemen are slightly older and specifically selected by the sponsoring parents. It is, in a way, sort of an arranged marriage situation without the troublesome bonds of matrimony.

Where this is breaking down is that the young women I've seen have frequently gone "boy crazy." They seem to live for drama and attention. They don't want to work, they don't want to learn a skill. They are absolutely thrilled at the prosperity and freedom they have and want to fiddle like a grasshopper when they should be an ant hording for the coming winter. They gypsy from boyfriend to family member to friend, allowing distant relatives to pay their bills, boyfriends to pay their way, not lifting a finger to help with the bills. Their connection to their birth families is not strong - after all, they didn't see them for years before they immigrated. I've had a few that had children with one boyfriend or another and then it hits the fan when they break up and we end up in court.

These young ladies tend to come to court with their new, trendy clothes, perfect nails, cute hairstyles and no clue that the judge is more interested in their ability to support their child than how utterly scrumptious they look. They come with complete confidence that the judge will award the baby to them because they are the mother. And yet, they frequently haven't even attempted to learn a skill or get a job, have depended on distant relatives and friends to support them, don't own a home, aren't even listed on the rental agreements, don't drive, have no insurance, haven't seen their birth family (that sponsored them) in over a year. I have had one young lady after another under the age of 23 who aren't in school and haven't worked a steady job in several years. They live with one family for a few months before wearing out their welcome and moving somewhere else - frequently in a completely different city or state. I'm not saying all new immigrants are like this. I am just saying that many who end up in court got there while walking that road.

In contrast, especially when the father is someone "approved" by the family, the dad is frequently also a first generation immigrant. But he has worked at the same job for years; has lived in his home for longer than that; has insurance and a history of making sure the children get to the doctor; he has a decent job; he is educated; he has a clear commitment to education and will know exactly where the child will go to school - in fact, he has already made arrangements; he can show that he tried to help the young lady get established to no avail; he pays his child support on time and beyond the minimum; and he is active in his children's lives.

It is a no brainer.

As a Guardian ad litem, it is a huge relief to know that the kids have a stable parent. At the same time, I can't help but feel terrible for these young, clueless women who don't seem to have any inkling how our culture works. Or that THEY need to work. Sometimes, I get pretty disgusted at what pop culture is teaching our young girls. Some new immigrants see the movies, magazines, television, etc. but weren't raised here and often don't recognize that what they see is not how things actually work. Some young girls raised in this country fall into the same trap.

I'm glad I'm not raising kids, these days.

Been a pretty busy week. As always, my calendar starts filling up even when I try to keep it light. I'd hoped to be able to stay home with the new baby most of the time until she gets established but I will have to be going in and out for short periods that first week. The following week is lighter. So far.

I'm stressing over it.


Kathy said...

Penny, does your work cause you to have nightmares? As I have read most of your posts, it does make me wonder what goes through the minds of these people.

Owens Family Adventures said...

It is just a crazy world out there.
My 16 year old is taking a family development class at school. Yesterday they were talking about what goes on at home that they are thankful for. My daughter said one of the things she was thankful for was that we eat dinner together as a family a lot. She said the teacher started to ask a bunch of questions about our family and the whole class was in awe over some of the things we do....eat dinner together....go to sports activites together to cheer each other on...talk about our days...have movie night...the list goes on. She thought it was really sad that some kids have never done any of these things together.
Families sure are different in todays day and age. It kinda makes me sad. I think you are doing such a great thing being there for those who often have no voice. You are truly one of Gods little angels. :)
Hugs to you my friend,

Lisa said...

The last year I was teaching HS computers I ended up having a class discussion about where did each student think they would be in 5 years. I had 5 black ladies tell me they would have at least 4 kids. Now 4 of them were already pregnant (and only 15 or 16 years old).. When I asked them why not go to college and get a good job they told me it was easier for them to have babies and live on welfare... from what they told me that's what their mom's did and that's all they knew so they were only following tradition... Their mom's each had between 4 to 6 kids.
There were several young men in the class that already had a child or 2.. When I asked if they helped take care of the kids they said no the momma's didn't need help.
We need to find a way of breaking this trend... Maybe if everyone was made to support themselves and not depend on the government for support...