A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

The New Immigrant
By Sowore Omoyele
Owing to the death of my father, Mr. David Omoremilekun Sowore, I recently traveled to the continent. On my way back, I was stuck at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, where, a storm dumped more than a foot of snow and grounded all planes in the airport.

As the night passed, I made the acquaintance of a 'new immigrant' _a winner of the Diversity Visa lottery. Though the KLM staff and the Dutch immigration service treated our little corner of in-transit migrants badly, I noticed that the 'new immigrant' didn't seem to be bothered.

The staff kept a menacing eye on us as we slept in crevices, golf carts, and little spaces eating half cooked chicken nuggets from the only McDonalds at the airport. Other travelers were ferried out to five-star hotels in town. I asked my friend what he thought about the discriminatory attitude of the airline towards us. He shrugged and said, "look, it doesn't matter what they do to me at this point. I don't feel discriminated against _it is by God's grace that I made it this far and Jesus will take me to New York tomorrow."

New immigrants have a certain air of innocence and naivety about them. I was a new immigrant a few years back myself.

The new immigrant is different from the starry-eyed old timers, high on Prozac and coffee, I often meet with in Brooklyn or Newark; or the angry America is no good crowd who migrate every year from city to city at the slightest provocation. They are also different from the calm, club-going, frequently divorced ones who offer you a drink so as to kill you with their life experiences, or those with a Caribbean accent who promise to go home as soon as they hit the lotto jackpot.

The new immigrant had lofty plans. He swore to me that he wasn't going home anytime soon, if ever. He complained about the evil powers, the witches and wizard at home, the police and electricity problems, and the malaria that assaulted him every week. He wanted to marry a black American. He was excited about the ones he saw on MTV and asked if there were many of them in New York. He planned to work two jobs and make plenty of money, so he could save up to build a house in Nigeria and start a business. He insisted that he would continue his teaching career and look for a job as a teacher in one of New Yorks schools.

Soon, it became my turn to tell him that things were not as rosy as he saw on MTV or CNN. America was not necessarily God's own country. I saw a lot of Godless people and government in America. Democracy and human rights weren't always respected _there were human rights violations in America as well, along with voter disenfranchisement. I explained that the pastors who preach on television to Africans are not necessarily nice people _some are just a branch of the greedy corporate system afflicting the human race.

I then moved on to ask my friend about racism. He promised that he would ignore it entirely. He would not argue with someone who called him a nigger because the word was not comparable to the brutality he had suffered in the hands of the Nigerian police, who are of the same color and race as himself. I narrated how the police killed Amadou Diallo and others, and the new immigrant asked me, Why didn't they stay out of trouble?

As we parted at JFK airport, the new immigrant was taken to his side of immigration processing. Like the former slaves, he had to be indentured, finger printed and photographed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As for me, I have to be reprocessed back into the system through secondary inspection, during which someone checks for any unpaid tickets or fines that constitute immigration felonies these days. As for my friend, the new immigrant, wherever you may be now, please call me!