Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Immigrants Looking For A Better Life Gunned Down

This past Friday, April 3rd, Jiverly Wong, a 42 year old man of Vietnamese decent entered the American Civic Center in Binghamton, New York and opened fire, killing 15 people (including himself) and injuring numerous others. The American Civic Association is an immigration support center that serves as an important resource for recent immigrants who are looking to learn English or receive other services. The suspect was reportedly a former student in English classes at the Civic Association. The majority of the victims, themselves were also immigrants searching for a better life in the United States.

Looking at these tragic events in the context of Human Rights/Human Wrongs, I cannot help but wonder if the United States is actually capable providing a better life for recent immigrants fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries. Stories have surfaced about the backgrounds of many of the victims of the Binghamton shootings. For example, Layla Khalil, a 57 year old wife and mother of three came to the United States after surviving a numerous car bombings in Baghdad. After only a few years in the U.S., she has become the victim of the same kind of violence that she sought to escape when leaving her home country of Iraq.

Furthermore, while it is hard to call a killer a victim after taking the lives of 14 other innocent people, it appears that he felt persecuted himself by law enforcement officials. According to a letter that he sent to a news station on the day of the shootings Wong states, "Of course you need to know why I shooting? Because undercover cop gave me a lot of ass during eighteen years." Obviously, it is hard to confirm or deny this apparent motive for the shootings or whether there is a mental health issue in this case, the letter indicates a feeling of isolation that produced anger because he could not speak English as well as a clear feeling persecution from police.

Thus, when looking at how the current immigration system can be amended or improved, does this story tell us anything about the necessity for assimilation and support in the process? Or is this sort of violence unavoidable? Can the U.S. accommodate all immigrants and provide the persecuted around the world with better lives? Should we be responsible for this as the most powerful nation in the world?

1 comment:

Maribel said...

Automatically I think, yes there is something to be learnt from such a tragedy. How could there not be? We have to take something positive away from this to ensure that lives were not lost in vain, right? But what can learn from the Binghamton shooting that took the lives of 15 immigrants (including the shooter) that came to the U.S. in search of a better life? Perhaps we can feel a moment of compassion for the families of the victims or even take note of the silent suffering that immigrants endure in the United States as they struggle to be accepted in places that don’t want to accept them. The American Civic Society endured a tragedy, but it brings to light the need for more centers such as the American Civic Society which provide support for recent immigrants who have arrived in the U.S. by providing services such as English classes among others. I hear people say “This is America,they should speak English” but who will teach them English? Will people stand up for those that walk everyday, intimidated, feeling insecure and helpless. The U.S. immigration system has adopted a Darwinian attitude in which only the strongest survive through it yet Lady Liberty yells “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breath free” and when they arrive, we force them to hide, legally intimidating them and socially as well. In the midst of such a tragedy, supporting and rallying for more services that support immigrant communities is essential. In this manner, services that these victims died obtaining can be provided to others that need them as well.