Immigrants Are What Made America Great

Anna Widowski came to the United States during the 1880s from what is now Poland with her family as a young woman. They settled on the plains of Kansas as wheat farmers. When she was 16 years old, she went to work as a “Harvey girl” at one of the Fred Harvey shops that were common at railroad stations where she met a young man who worked for the railroad. They got married and in March 1896, at the age of 17 she gave birth to a son who became my grandfather. Her husband’s railroad job took the family to Cleveland where they settled on the west side.

In 1975 I was working at a county welfare office when a Vietnamese family came into my office applying for Medicaid. They had escaped South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon that spring and arrived in Ohio after being sponsored by a local church. It was the beginning of winter and the family was adjusting to the cold climate in northern Ohio. After settling into a house, it wasn’t long before the father found a job as a custodian in the local school system and the mother was able to find a job at a local restaurant. Within a short time, the father and mother had started a janitorial service business and was able to employ others. They eventually bought a newer house in a suburban neighborhood.

Back in 1977, millions of Americans watched the television mini series Roots, where an African American author told the story of how his family came to the United States from Africa as a young man on a slave ship. The best selling book and the television show showed the struggles of his ancestors as slaves, then free people struggling to find their place in the United States.  

We all have immigrant stories in our family history. Whether our ancestors emigrated from Poland, Italy or Vietnam or even if they arrived in the New World on the Mayflower; just about every American is descended from someone who came to this country as an immigrant. Whether it was to escape religious persecution or extreme poverty in their native country; our ancestors left their homes and native land for a foreign country where the people often spoke a different language and had different customs. They saw the United States as a land of boundless opportunity.

Last year I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York harbor. Ellis Island was the first place in the United States where most immigrants landed. There those immigrants were processed and screened before entering the country. From when the Ellis Island facility opened in 1892 until it was closed in 1954, millions of immigrants, mostly from Europe arrived in the United States. The great hall where those immigrants arrived first is open as part of the National Park Service and there are records of those people who passed through that facility. It is estimated that 40% of all Americans now living are descended from someone who passed through Ellis Island.

Recently I read a story in the newspaper about a mother who entered the United States illegally back in 1999 and has been working since her arrival was deported after being picked up in a sweep of illegal immigrants working for an Ohio company. When she was deported, she left behind her two children who were born in the United States and are American citizens. One is an 18 year old girl who is about to begin her senior year in high school and her 12 year old brother. She never collected welfare, food stamps or Medicaid while she was in the United States. She paid taxes and other than entering the country illegally, broke no laws. Now her future is uncertain as well as her children’s future.  

This is not the United States of our history books. This is no the country that allowed people like my great grandmother to enter the United States, settle down and contribute to this nation. Deporting hard working people with children is not making America great again. Instead it is turning away people who are more likely to start a business and contribute to this country.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 10, Issue 8, Posted 11:23 AM, 08.01.2018