Acceptance

“The Blind Side,” Sandra Bullock’s new movie, is the story of a Caucasian family that takes in, and befriends, an African-American teenager. Two things about the movie made it resonate for me: first, it is based on a true story; and second, it is about goodness, a subject not very popular these days.

The movie is not about immigration, the usual topic of this column, but it is about acceptance of people who look different and have backgrounds different than our own. The movie caused me to reflect on the people from around the world whom I have represented and wonder whether they feel accepted by the United States.

I don’t think that they feel accepted by the United States. As our economy has worsened and crime has increased, those who seem different than us are blamed. It is the immigrants, people say, who have taken jobs from our citizens, have diverted resources from hospitals and schools, have caused our deficit to balloon and are responsible for most serious crimes. These are legitimate concerns and problems to which immigrants may have contributed. But reliable data indicates that immigrants’ responsibility for these problems is small and that they have been made an easy scapegoat.

Having become acquainted with hundreds of immigrants, I know that some are “bad apples,” but most are just like us: they are hard-working, pay their taxes, love their children and want to be respected and successful. Some, like Michael, the African-American teenager in “The Blind Side” who became a professional football player, have exceptional talent. Some lead major United States corporations or are responsible for the development of cutting-edge technology.

During this holiday season, why not emulate Leigh Anne, the mom in “The Blind Side,” who encouraged Michael to sleep on her couch rather than in the school gym? Leigh Anne knew that she was taking a chance by welcoming an unfamiliar teenager into her home and family. She, however, was driven to take the young man in because it was the right thing to do; and she was open to the possibility that Michael was a good kid and could be a positive addition to her family. In these tough times, we need to work extra hard at maintaining our goodness towards others and avoid being unreasonably suspicious and negative about immigrants. Extend a hand or a smile to someone who is different.

This article should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult an immigration attorney for advice specific to your situation.