William F. Powers: Immigrants can thrive

April 11, 2013 

Immigrants thrive

The March 29 Point of View by the Catholic and Episcopal bishops of North Carolina (“Immigration laws need reform”) reminded me of my own immigrant parents and how blessed my life has been because of their courage, hard work and belief that America was indeed a land of opportunity.

In the days before strict immigration restrictions were enacted, they sailed in steerage from Ireland and were processed on Ellis Island in New York. One day they were poor farmers who had never seen a city; a week later they stepped ashore to the bustle and energy of the great metropolis.

My mother, just 17 years old, went into service as a maid. My father, who came a few years later, was employed by the New York subway system. They met, married, bought a house, raised a family. Neither parent had much formal education, but they knew how to work, how to raise children, how to contribute to the community of their adopted home.

My mother, who never read a book in her life, would boast – modestly, of course – “All my children are professionals.” Only in America!

William F. Powers, Ph.D., Chapel Hill

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