The Good Place

WHY IMMIGRANTS KEEP COMING

Immigration has been in the news, and the questions of how to deal with illegal immigrants and how to guard our borders are an important and complicated ones. I will not deal with them here. What worries me is that so much of the language surrounding the debate is so full of resentment, fear, and racism that I wonder whether some Americans have forgotten-or if they ever knew-how ugly a part of our history this anti-immigrant feeling has been, and apparently still is.

I live in Queens, the most ethnically diverse part of New York City, which is to say the most ethnically diverse part of the planet. My own neighborhood is largely Korean, with plenty of Chinese, Greeks, Hispanics, African Americans, and South Asians. I moved to Queens to be pastor of a parish in the Albanian Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America. I am Irish American; my wife was born in the Philippines. Our parishioners were at first mainly second-generation Albanians. The fall of communism brought in a wave of Albanians, doubling the size of our congregation. Among our other parishioners there were a few Greeks and Russians who liked the English liturgy, some Coptic Egyptians, Eritreans, and some converts from a range of backgrounds.

When I talked with the newly arrived Albanians I was reminded of my own great-grandparents who came here from Ireland, and of my wife’s journey. Communism had ruined Albania, and, as much as they...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.