Letters to the Editor: America needs an infusion of optimism and grit. That’s what immigrants bring

A boy holds hands with a man and a woman as they walk past homes, one of which has a U.S. flag
Maria Del Pilar Barradas-Medel and Alejandro Medel, with their 4-year-old son in their Azusa neighborhood, are among most immigrants who express optimism about this country.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: My father arrived in Detroit in 1905. He was born in 1900 and came to the U.S. during the pogroms in Russia. (“In an increasingly pessimistic era, immigrants espouse a hallmark American trait — optimism,” Sept. 17)

When he was in school, a teacher asked him what he wanted to be. My dad said he wanted to work as an engineer. The teacher said, “You are a Jew, no one will hire you.” This was the era of Henry Ford.

Dad asked his teacher what he should do. He was told to become a professional — a doctor, a lawyer or a dentist. My dad told his teacher, “I will become a doctor.”


And he did. That was the start of his legacy. He opened his medical practice on Van Dyke Avenue in Detroit and married my mother, who worked in his office. I was born in 1940, the same year my father and his physician cousin bought a three-story clinic.

In Detroit, immigrant doctors were not allowed to have hospital privileges. So, my dad’s nonprofit hospital gave privileges to all licensed doctors. The hospital grew and was a success. Dad died in 1975.

That is just one story that shows the value of immigration.

Barry Allen, Seal Beach


To the editor: Bravo to The Times for its series on the optimism expressed by immigrants.

My parents came as immigrants to this country, and for much of my career, I served in an immigrant community as the director of a social services agency that assisted mostly working but low-income residents.

Sadly, many recent immigrants with limited education are often invisible among us. They wash our dishes at restaurants, work in our factories, landscape our yards and do much more. They do not take away jobs from others; rather, they form a vital economic engine that contributes to the current low unemployment rate.

Their children thrive in our schools, and most pursue economically important career pathways through our various higher education opportunities. Our communities flourish because of the diversity and cultural traditions that immigrants provide.


Marianne Haver Hill, Altadena


To the editor: My Swedish grandparents passed through Ellis Island in 1892 where they underwent brief physical exams and an interview. These procedures took a few hours, and upon completion they left and found their way to Minnesota.

In 1897, under the terms of the 1862 Homestead Act, they started their 160-acre farm in North Dakota.

Why isn’t it possible in 2023 to update the procedures of 1892 with several “Ellis Island” entry stations, each showing a banner echoing the same welcoming words that are etched on the Statue of Liberty?

Unworkable? I would like to hear any nonracist argument against my proposal. It’s not as if the overwhelming majority of immigrants have ceased to be hardworking people looking for a better life.

Daniel Connell, Moorpark


To the editor: Paul was in my first-grade class. His family immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea. One day after school I asked his father why children from families like his often excel in school.

He was happy to explain: “When a child is trapped beneath a car, the mother will demonstrate superhuman strength and lift the car to free the child. We come to the United States and we lift the car.”

I have never been able to tell that story without tears coming to my eyes. Most immigrants who come to America lift our nation by figuratively “lifting the car.”

Kathryn Anderson, Costa Mesa


To the editor: Columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote the following: “Whiners: If you don’t like the U.S., leave. Leave it to immigrants.”

That’s essentially what right-wingers used to say back in the 1960s: “America, love it or leave it.”

This sentiment, which basically states, “If you have opinions that don’t match mine, then get out,” is offensive and undemocratic — whether it comes from the political right or left.

Daniel Landau, Mar Vista


To the editor: Unless you are Native American, you and your predecessors are immigrants. Whether you can trace your ancestry to the Mayflower, Ellis Island or a recent crossing, we are all immigrants.

Let’s rejoice about that fact — a fact that gives our nation the resilience and ability to thrive that can only be found in diverse ecosystems. We denigrate and dismiss our status as a nation of immigrants at our peril.

Sara R. Nichols, Los Angeles