Home > op-ed > Just Desserts: Russell Yee reflects on immigration policy, hard work, and fancy desserts

Just Desserts: Russell Yee reflects on immigration policy, hard work, and fancy desserts

Russell Yee is a pastor at New Hope Covenant Church in Oakland and teaches at Fuller Seminary – Northern California. He also serves as a member of ISAAC’s Board of Directors. Here are his reflections on KQED-FM 88.5, a San Francisco Bay Area public radio station (KQED airs short opinion segments from listeners called “Perspectives”):


N.B. He did NOT write the online intro that uses that “a” word (“assimilation” . . . )

September 15, 2009

There I was, invited as a guest aboard a full-sized cruise ship plying North American waters. While on board I found myself thinking about our attitudes towards immigration.

On this particular ship, the crewmembers were mostly Indonesian and Filipino nationals in their 20s and 30s. Talking to them, I learned that they work 11 or more hours a day every day for up to a year, with no days off.  Many of them spend these long seasons away from their own young children, who are left with relatives.

These crewmembers are hired in their respective homelands at differing market-rate wages, often after paying large sums to hiring brokers and training schools.  There on the high seas, on ships flying flags of convenience, the only labor law is the law of supply and demand.

As an Asian American man with young children, I couldn’t help but notice how much I and these crewmembers resembled each other–indeed, there was a moment when someone mistook me for a crewmember.

So why was I the one on the asking end of a request for another fancy dessert? Mostly because two and three generations ago my ancestors and my wife’s ancestors had taken risks and made sacrifices to immigrate to these shores, and worked hard here, and raised our parents and then us in turn to do the same.

Of course we need well-regulated borders and fairminded, enforceable immigration laws. But I believe we have so much to give and to gain from still being the destination of hope that America was for my ancestors and so many of yours too.

I believe we have so much to give and to gain by investing in the education and lives of immigrants, as well as investing in the lives of everyone already here for however many generations.

Meanwhile I hope my own kids will learn the values of thrift, sacrifice, service, and hard work.  Maybe I’ll send them to work on a cruise ship.

With a perspective, this is Russell Yee.

Categories: op-ed
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