Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nashville is haven, home for immigrants

Southern hospitality shines through

A series of articles in the Tennessean featured the stories of people from around the world who have come from different backgrounds abroad to find a home in Nashville.

This story featured the first International Block Party hosted by the Refugee and Immigration Services department of Catholic Charities of Tennessee:

"'Most refugees are hesitant when they come here and say they'll go back home eventually, but they get sucked in,' said [Holly] Johnson, [director of the Refugee and Immigration Services department]. 'Most refugees are happy with Nashville. They find the people welcoming and supportive.'"

"Johnson said Catholic Charities has helped resettle Cubans, Iranians, Somalis, Ethiopians, Kurds, Kenyans and Sudanese and including those who practice B'hai, Muslim and Christian faiths."

"Once an application for asylum is accepted by the U.S. State Department and a destination city is set, the charity helps by picking up refugees from the airport, setting up housing and helping them apply for services."

Another story focused mostly on the Somali refugees new to Nashville:

Musa Matan would "rather not talk about the squalid place where persecuted Somali Bantus sought refuge, the paltry food rations or the unforgiving hot sun. But he will talk about it, if only to explain how good life is since he and his wife, Fatuma Aden, left that world behind and moved to east Nashville."

"'That was the toughest place I'll ever see in my life,' Matan, 69, said through a translator. 'Now we are so happy. We are so glad to be in this country.'"

This column in the Tennessean highlighted Muslim women in the South and featured Egypt-born Nashville resident Zainab Elberry:

"In Nashville, Elberry seconds the idea of a new and improved South. In the 1970s' Nashville, Elberry felt like an outsider. 'Talk about (glass) ceilings,' she now jokes. 'I was a woman, Arab and Muslim. You learn about frustration.'"

"Yet she persisted. Today, she owns her own insurance brokerage company, PINC Financial. She moves easily among the Nashville elite, including top Democrats such as former Vice President Al Gore."

"After all, she says, "Nashville is my home.'"

This article explores the process of immigration and features the story of Colombian-born Vicente Ayala:

"Vicente Ayala of Nashville filed for a green card at the U.S. embassy in Colombia, hoping to emigrate from his home in the city of Cali. While waiting, his wife became pregnant with their second child. They named him Kevin, hoping the American-sounding name would help him to blend in if and when they moved to the U.S."

"Five years after applying, Ayala learned that his petition had been accepted. He and his family arrived in Nashville last year."

"The green card has been the difference between a hardscrabble existence in Colombia and a promising future in the U.S., he said."

"'It opens a big door,' Ayala said."

One story on the front page of the July 4 Tennessean featured Jose Ceja, the son of slain restaranteur Aureliano Ceja, who said that despite the tragedy, "Where there's money, there's dangers. We still feel more comfortable here than any place in the world." Another July 4 story featured Colombian-born Omaira Pedraza Heakin:

"She cherishes her citizenship, which she earned in November 2004 after five years spent in this country."

"'A lot of people want to get out of Colombia,' she says, when asked why she left home to come here. 'Colombia had a lot of problems, economic pressures.'"

"'The American people that has been born here give us a welcome. I feel welcomed to belong to this country,' she says."

Focus: Hospitality, Integration

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