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A family that until recently lived in College Point watched with special interest when the question of immigration came up in the second debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Like the people in question, they had once been illegal immigrants. The husband and wife fled with their two daughters in the 1980s from what was then Czechoslovakia into neighboring Austria while their country was still part of the Soviet empire.
The regular border crossings were closely guarded by the military, so they decided to walk through a railroad tunnel connecting the two countries that was more than a mile long. When they saw a train coming they had no other choice but to lay down on the tracks, each parent covering a child, as the train passed overhead. It was a terrifying experience, but one they were willing to risk.
When they reached Austria, they were sent to a refugee camp. A year later, they came to America after being sponsored by a family living in the Midwest. Today, the children have graduated college, the father is a carpenter and the mother works for a fashion designer.
They were annoyed by the response to the immigration question at the town hall debate.
Romney said illegal immigration must be blocked and said he would “not grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally.” He added that America should be encouraging the immigration of doctors and people with engineering degrees.
Of course it is not the doctors and engineers from Mexico and Central America who are risking their lives to bring their families across the border. Refusing to even consider amnesty for illegals places a burden on the nation’s cities.
Queens will suffer if steps aren’t taken to integrate immigrant families into American society.
Obama reiterated his call for immigration reform that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship and criticized Romney for supporting “self-deportation,” which would impose tougher laws to push these people to leave the country on their own.
The current administration has reached out to newcomers without green cards in Queens and elsewhere. Obama should be proud of that.
The Czech family has a special place in their hearts for people who see America as the land of opportunity. Like us, they hope the next president will understand that.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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