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…Airs Friday, May 23 at 5 p.m. on TV12…

Many immigrants are drawn to the United States by distorted media images of American culture only to end up as impoverished laborers, say participants in a new WHYY-TV special. The unique issues and concerns of today’s immigrants will be examined in a special hour-long edition of DELAWARE TONIGHT’s “Friday Forum” on Friday, May 23 at 5 p.m. on TV12.

The program features 36 residents from diverse communities across the Delaware Valley. Participants include immigrants from Ireland, India, Cuba, Russia, Taiwan, Liberia and more, as well as community activists and leaders in local academics and government. Hosted by WHYY’s Nancy Karibjanian, the program features discussions about how the world views the United States and how we as Americans must now be more aware of the impact of U.S. foreign policy. The discussions were taped during town meetings held at the WHYY Technology Center in Philadelphia and the WHYY Delaware Operations Center in Wilmington.

During the taping of the program, panelists explored the issues surrounding the topic of immigration, including America’s current immigration policies, why people choose to immigrate to America, how citizens of other countries perceive America and where these perceptions come from.

Mark Miller, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at The University of Delaware, stated that the United States is the world’s preeminent land of migration and that “no where else is immigration so important to self understanding and our foreign policy.”

DELAWARE VALLEY VOICES reveals that many immigrants have a distorted view of the United States prior to arriving. Many believe that it will be easy to find their fortunes. Dr. Pedro Ferreira, a Cuban-American psychologist, stated that Hollywood films contribute to this misperception and that many new immigrants have “a very intense preoccupation with the glamour and wealth that is portrayed.”

Miller stated, “We take in about 1,000,000 people each year as legal immigrants. It is a hard fact that many more people want to come to the United States than we can accommodate and this leads to illegal immigration and human trafficking. It is a very tough issue.”

The program addresses how the Federal Government provides little or no assistance to new immigrants to help them assimilate into American culture. The responsibility falls solely with the private sector because the role of the Federal Government stops with the admission process.

There is also an investigation into the growing level of racial prejudice against certain immigrants. Alphonso Kawah, a former Liberian ambassador, commented that racial prejudice is more prevalent toward immigrants from the African continent than with immigrants from Western Europe. Other panelists concurred that immigrants who are Anglo feel “more welcome” and have an easier time assimilating into American society.

In spite of these harsh realities, most immigrants still feel America is the best place to live on earth. To them, America provides freedom, prosperity, education, refuge and asylum.

Andres Gomez, owner of an ethnic restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware, came to the United States from the Dominican Republic eight years ago. Gomez works over 12 hours every day of the week to keep his business successful, but said it is worth it. He stated that living in America affords him the opportunity to make money for vacations and rent, and provides his children with a good education.

“There is no golden plate here. There is no free lunch,” said Dr. Shao-Tang Sun, an immigrant from Taiwan who is President and CEO of Elsicon, Inc., a technology corporation in Newark, Delaware. “But, if you do work, you will have opportunities open up for you.”

WHYY, in partnership with Philadelphia Cares, produced this program as part of local outreach around the national By the People project, a 16-month initiative created by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions that is designed to help Americans focus on their connection to the rest of the world and foster discussion on the country’s role in world events.

At 10 p.m. on May 23, WHYY will air By the People: America in the World on TV12. Hosted by The NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer, the program will feature a roundtable discussion between citizens from around the country and a key foreign policy shaper about the different perspectives citizens bring to the international issues currently on the nation’s agenda.

The producer of DELAWARE VALLEY VOICES is Patty Hartman. Local support for DELAWARE VALLEY VOICES is provided by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service.

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