Canada Increasingly a Gateway for Undocumented Polish Immigrants Entering the U.S.
An uptick in illegal crossings by Polish immigrants highlights immigration issues along the northern U.S. border.
An uptick in illegal crossings by Polish immigrants highlights immigration issues along the northern U.S. border.
When the Obama administration recently announced its decision to scrap the Bush-era plan for an anti-missile shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic many Poles were not surprised. It simply confirmed what they had been expecting.
Last fall then-President-elect Obama expressed doubts about the system, and members of the Polish community in the U.S. anticipated that he wouldn’t feel obligated to respect agreements signed in 2008 by the previous administration.
“The US has its own problems now and they do whatever is best for them,” said Grazyna Bulka, east coast director of a Chicago-based shipping company, Polamer Inc. Bulka feared the system would have infuriated Russia, and was relieved to
learn that it had been abandoned.
“Poles love America so much and the U.S. really doesn’t care about us much,” lamented Emilia Sroczynska, a small business owner from Brooklyn, who favors the anti-missile system. “They remember us only when they need us, but they abandon us as soon as they don’t. To me it’s just another disappointment.”
Whether they supported or opposed the Bush plan to place ten ground-based interceptors on Polish soil, many agreed that Obama’s decision to scrap the deal proved that the U.S. considers Poland a second-class ally.
But what truly embittered Poles was the timing of the announcement, widely interpreted either as ignorance or insensitivity to Poland’s history by the Obama administration. (more…)
“While there are anti-Semites in this country, there is even a larger number –and that group is growing faster– of people opposing anti-Semites, the anti-anti-Semites.”
[ Rabbi Michael Schudrich ]
The history of Jews in Poland is long and not without controversy, especially due to their persecution during World War II. The fact is, until that war started Warsaw was a center of Europe’s Jewish community.
Now, construction has started there on the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
It will not simply be a museum about the Holocaust. The museum team wants to focus more broadly on centuries of Jewish life and achievements in Poland.
Feet in 2 Worlds reporter Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska produced a radio piece about the museum from Warsaw that aired Tuesday on PRI’s The World.
You can listen to the story here or you can visit The World‘s page.[audio:http://188.8.131.52/audio/0825095.mp3]
You can see more pictures at the Feet in 2 Worlds Flickr page.
Polish immigrants have historically shown more interest in elections in their home country than in U.S. politics. But now the tables may have turned. At two polling sites in New York on Saturday, only 872 people cast their votes in the European Union parliamentary elections, according to consul Przemyslaw Balcerzyk of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York. That is approximately 10 times fewer than the total number who went to the polls in New York to vote in Polish parliamentary elections two years ago. Last November voters in the heavily Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn turned out in large numbers to vote in the presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain.
This was only the second time that Poles participated in an EU election, which typically attracts little attention even in countries that have been members of the European community for a long time. Only around 43% of the EU citizens voted this year, the lowest turnout since this type of election was first held in 1979.
In Poland the turnout was about 24.5%, which was actually more than 5 years ago, when approximately 20% of eligible Poles voted. But among Poles living in the U.S. the election stirred even less interest.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D.-Ill.), a newly elected congressman from Chicago, has wasted no time in addressing a key concern of the Polish community in Illinois’ 5th district.
Last Friday, Quigley called on President Barack Obama to support Poland’s plea for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program — a matter we reported on last week.
“Poland has proven to be an indispensable ally in the global campaign against terrorism,” wrote Quigley in a press release.
Including Poland in the Visa Waiver Program will have positive security, economic, and bilateral effects.
In addition, there are thousands of Polish-Americans in my district alone who would benefit by making it easier to have a loved one visit them, not to mention the local businesses that would benefit from tourism dollars.
We owe it to a country that has stood by us, and to the people who would like to visit the United States.
Quigley, a former member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, won the special election held on April 7, 2009 to replace Rahm Emanuel after he vacated the seat in order to serve as Obama’s White House Chief of Staff.
One of Quigley’s rivals in the race was Victor Forys, a Polish immigrant who, despite the large percentage of Polish Americans in the 5th district (17% of all residents), ended up fourth in the special Democratic primary.
In recent years, the Polish government stood by the U.S., strongly supporting President Bush’s war on terror by sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and agreeing to install parts of an American missile defense system in its territory.
As a demonstration of U.S. gratitude, Poland hoped to be included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which would allow Polish citizens to enter the U.S. as tourists or for business purposes for up to 90 days without having to first obtain a visa. But despite extensive negotiations between representatives of both governments Poland’s dream has not come true, and the chances of Poland joining the program anytime soon are very slim.
A New Generation of Polish-Americans, a story by Feet in 2 Worlds and Polish Daily News reporter Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, is the main feature on this week’s NPR show Latino USA (find your NPR station here).
From the Latino USA website:
The history of Poland hasn’t always been pretty.
While historians would say the country was born in 966 when its ruler became Christianized, it’s territorial boundaries haven’t been well-defined throughout the ages. In fact, from 1795 to 1918, Poland didn’t exist as a nation and the territory was divided among the kingdoms of Prussia, Austria, and Russia.
Constantly invaded, partitioned, borders redrawn, and territory occupied, the Poles themselves led a workers’ revolution in the 1980s that threw off the shackles of Soviet-led communism and inspired the world with the word: “Solidarity.”
Throughout most of the 20th Century, however, many Poles yearned for the freedom and security of America. But for the younger generation who grew up after the fall of Communism, those yearnings of their parents and grandparents just aren’t resonating.
You can listen to the story below:[audio:http://latinousa.kut.org/wp-content/lusaaudio/838_seg01.mp3]
Or you can listen to the story while watching a photo slideshow at the Latino USA website.
You can read more of Ewa’s Feet In 2 Worlds pieces on Polish-Americans here.
He didn’t win. But Dr. Victor Forys considers his bid to replace Rahm Emanuel in Illinois’ 5th Congressional District a huge success. Fory’s, a Polish immigrant, finished fourth out of a field of 12 candidates in the special March 3rd Democratic primary with approximately 12% of the vote. Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, who claimed the Democratic nomination, got 22% of the vote and is poised to win the congressional seat in a special election on April 7th
Forys says his campaign mobilized Polish voters who in recent years have not been very active in politics, both in terms of voting or offering financial support to candidates. “We got them to like American politics, we got them excited about it, so this is not the end, this is just the beginning,” he said in a phone interview the day after the primary. Out of approximately 650,000 residents in the district, more than 17% claim Polish origins.
Forys, a well-known medical doctor, had hoped that low turnout among non-Polish voters combined with the support of his community would be enough for him to win. To a certain degree his plan worked. “I have never seen so many Polish people casting votes,” said Monika Mysliwiec who has worked as a Polish coordinator at the Chicago Board of Elections for the last 9 years. Approximately 300 Polish-speaking callers contacted the Board of Election’s hotline on primary day, mostly looking for their polling site. By comparison, on the day of the presidential election last November, about 100 Poles called. “Some people even called from other districts asking how they can vote for Forys,” said Mysliwiec.
Forys actually won in suburban Cook County where many Polish neighborhoods are located. He got approximately 22.5% of the Democratic votes in that part of the district.
In other areas his task was more difficult. Forys discovered that a tight network of connections and loyalties in Chicago’s political world does not favor outsiders.“Some older Polish Americans living in the city of Chicago have a strong personal relationship with the ward organizations. Moreover, it was an electorate that we couldn’t reach with the Polish media because they watch broadcast TV. We didn’t have enough money,” Forys said.
It also turned out that many Polish immigrants, not having participated in the political process before, didn’t realize they had to register to vote ahead of time. “We received many phone calls from people who thought that they could just go to a polling site with their ID and vote, just like it is in Poland,” said Mysliwiec.
Despite his loss, Poles residing in Chicago are proud of Forys’ attempt. “He changed the dynamics of this race taking away votes from long-time Chicago politicians and beating people like Patrick O’Connor, a Chicago alderman closely affiliated with Mayor Daley,” noted Malgorzata Ptaszynska of 1030 AM, WNVR, a local Polish radio station. “To other Democratic candidates who scored higher than him, like State Representatives Sara Feigenholtz and John Fritchey, politics is daily work, while Forys just walked out of his medical clinic.”
Ptaszynska is also convinced that Forys “gave Poles hope and made them involved. Polonia was noticed and showed itself as a group that does vote after all.” For her it’s a clear signal that Polish immigrants are willing to participate in American politics if they are educated about the American system and believe that their votes matter.
That theory may be tested in the April 7the special election to replace Emanuel who is now White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama. “I really hope that Poles will go out and vote even though the Polish candidate didn’t make it,” noted Monika Mysliwiec.
As for Forys, he does not rule out running for another office in the future. “I’m a physician and I’m happy with my work. But never say never. And if I run again, I want to run for another significant office.”
He even joked that he would like to try his chances in a presidential bid.
By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, Polish Daily News and FI2W reporter
This year ends with an unpleasant intervention by Poland’s diplomatic staff at the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. At issue are recent cases of Poles who were denied entry to the U.S. at the New York area airports.
While no one questions the right of the U.S to bar certain individuals from entering the country, the treatment of Polish citizens was shocking to many, especially since most of those stopped at the border were older women in their 60s and 70s. Many of them were coming to visit their families and friends for Christmas, but instead ended up being interrogated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and transported in handcuffs to a detention center.
“In my case, they told me I overstayed my visa (when I) worked here between 1989 and 1991,” said Mrs. Janina, 64, who asked not to reveal her last name. “I admitted it was true. But since then I was here again in 2004 after I obtained my new visa, and everything was fine. Why they are giving me troubles now because of something I did almost 20 years ago, I really don’t know?” Mrs Janina was one of 13 Poles, including 11 women, who were not admitted to the U.S. in the month of November at the Newark Liberty International Airport. Some Polish citizens were also stopped at JFK airport. Similar cases occurred in December.
While most of the time the reason for inadmissibility was an old immigration violation, there was also a 60-years old woman, Mrs. Anna, who said she had never overstayed her visa, but still was not admitted. Allegedly, she was told that her visits to the U.S. were too frequent. Her explanation that her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren are U.S. citizens did not help.
CBP spokespeople are prohibited from discussing specific cases. They list, however, more than 60 grounds of inadmissibility divided into several major categories, including security reasons, illegal entrants and immigration violations, as well as documentation requirements.
Representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw stress that visas obtained in Poland do not guarantee that the visa-holder will be admitted to the U.S. The decision is up to CBP officers upon arrival to America.
After the interrogation Poles were ordered to return to their home country on the next available departure flight. (more…)
Feet In Two Worlds reporter Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska recently produced a feature story for WNYC News. Her radio piece about New York Poles returning to Poland aired locally during NPR’s All Things Considered.
From WNYC News:
The troubling economic times here are making some immigrants think about going home. Nineteen years after the collapse of communism and four years after joining the European Union, Poland is booming and young Poles in the United States want to profit from these changes.
They’re following the example of Irish immigrants who have been lured home by the Irish economic miracle. For undocumented immigrants the decision to return is sped up by anti-immigrant sentiment that is forcing out foreign workers from many parts of the world. As part of our occasional series, Feet in Two Worlds, Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, of the Polish Daily News has this report.