Last Saturday my mother-in-law Marva Hinds was honored, along with her four children, by the Los Angeles Adventist Academy Alumni Association as Family of the Year. I proudly joined them and the rest of our extended family as the presenter listed their collective contribution to the school. She sent all four of her children to Lynwood Adventist Academy (the school eventually merged with the Los Angeles school), and those children, in turn, all graduated from college eventually earning advanced degrees. They also all became educators, with Enrique the math & science teacher and Rosalia the English teacher spending the beginning of their teaching careers as educators at that same school. Mishelle taught nursing at Oakwood University and my husband Rickerby teaches Playwriting and Screenwriting at UC Riverside.
Sending four children to private school to ensure they receive a quality education may not seem like much of an accomplishment, that is, until you hear her story.
My mother-in-law is a remarkable woman. She was born into a large family in Roatán, one of the Bay Islands off the northern coast of Honduras, Central America. She is the ninth of ten children. Her father was a government worker who eventually became a teacher as well as a preacher; and I had the pleasure of knowing “Gram” her mother Stella, before she passed away just shy of her 100th birthday. While her sisters and brothers migrated to the States and put down roots, some in New York City, some eventually making their way to Los Angeles, Marva stayed on the island, married Thomas Hinds, a merchant marine, and had children. The first three were born in Honduras, the last, Rosalia, was born in the United States during one of her extended visits with family. Then tragedy struck. Her husband died when his ship went down taking 28 of 32 crewmembers with it. She was only 30 years old and now a single mother left to raise her four children alone, including nine-month old Rosalia. With all of her siblings living productive lives in the United States she set her sights on joining them there. Like most immigrants who desire to build their lives in the US, she applied for a visa. And like so many are forced to do, she waited – along with her four young children – for three years before they were permitted to return as permanent residents.
According to an American Enterprise Institute public opinion poll on immigration issues released last month, although anti-immigrant rhetoric fueled the success of the Trump presidential campaign: Americans’ general view of immigrants and immigration has become more positive over the past two decades. According to the report, “The first time Pew asked people about immigrants’ effect on the country in 1994, a 63 percent majority said immigrants were ‘a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and health care’.” However, “In November- December 2016, an identical percentage gave the opposite response, saying ‘immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.”
My mother-in-law is one of those people who may not have an exceptionally unique talent or in-demand ability, and whose contribution to our country is hard to quantify. She worked a low wage job for the County of Los Angeles for 21 years before she retired. She never learned to drive so she took the bus to her job at the H. Claude Hudson Health Center from her modest home located across the street from “Charlie’s Lounge” Live Nude Entertainment in South Central Los Angeles. She used her modest salary to pay for private school tuition for all of her children, who themselves spent three hours every day on a bus to get to school and back home. Although she never went to college, all four of her children did. They then went on to graduate school and are high school and university teachers.
While most of us agree that America’s history of inclusiveness is one of our greatest assets, we unfortunately still cannot agree on the semantics of immigration – how we talk about it and whom we’re talking about – so we can eventually work toward real reform. With the recent debate on immigration issues becoming more and more polarized, I believe my mother-in-law’s story helps us realize that neither of the extremes fairly represent the reality of most of those who come to our country in search of a better life.