James Brooke | Foreign Affairs: open our doors to Anglophone Afghans | Chroniclers

” Who speaks French ? The consular officer of the French Embassy in Bangkok called in 1979 crowds of ragged refugees newly escaped from the collapse of the Maoist regime in Cambodia. At the end of the 1000-day Khmer Rouge rule over Cambodia, French speakers were scarce. Every francophone member of my wife’s family has been executed in the Killing Fields.

With this simple call: who speaks French? – France skimmed the richest 10 percent of the 500,000 Cambodian refugees – those who had attended a French high school. Fast forward four decades, these 50,000 immigrants and their children are among the most prosperous ethnic groups in France.

In contrast, the United States largely imported war-traumatized and poorly educated rice farmers. Half a century later, high school graduation rates for Cambodian-Americans are low – 50 percent. Drive two hours east of the Berkshires to Lowell, home to the second largest Cambodian-American community after Glendale, California. Behind the well-run and well-stocked Cambodian markets, there is usually a Vietnamese manager.

I’m talking about it because if an American consular official shouted “Who speaks English?” To a crowd of Afghan refugees in Qatar, about 90 percent would raise their hands. The State Department deals with lengthy procedures and verification processes. Instead, let’s cut the red tape and say out loud that most of the men and women who worked with the Americans in Afghanistan would make excellent immigrants. This generation needs a Richard Armitage. This US Navy officer broke the rules and personally led a flotilla of ships transporting 30,000 Vietnamese refugees from Saigon to Subic Bay, Philippines, or 1,000 miles.

A while ago I stopped by the Berkshire Immigrant Center in Pittsfield to ask for advice for my wife. Fresh from Phnom Penh, I asked Lorena Dus, now Director of Client and Community Services, about the employment situation in the Berkshires. She cut me off: “We are not an employment agency. Then she went to say, “I get calls every week from employers asking, ‘Lorena, who do you have?’ “

Why do you think High Lawn Farm in Lee is largely run by Colombians? How many people in Lee, Lenox or Stockbridge will get up at 6 a.m. to milk the cows? Remember: cows don’t take weekends off.

Last summer, a Mexican-Honduran-Ecuadorian trio cleaned up my house in central Lenox, which I rented through Airbnb. They ran like clockwork, never skipping a beat: 17 cleanings in two months. Think about the money these New Yorkers and Bostonians poured into Lenox restaurants – all made possible by a rock-solid cleaning crew.

A few years ago Bob Broadis, then Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, explained to me his policy of not enforcing immigration laws. He said, “If it weren’t for the Mexicans washing the dishes, cleaning the toilets and taking out the trash, you would smell Aspen 50 miles away. Broadis has been re-elected five times, for a total of 24 years.

Last week my son George was hospitalized overnight for elbow surgery at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield. For 24 hours, the nursing teams included women from Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Jamaica. They were all very professional, very kind and very fluent in English. The gain of our country. The loss of their country of origin.

The next time you drive to Canada, play this game: tell the Canadian border officer that you are considering immigrating. If you’re over 40, that welcoming Canadian smile will fade. You can visualize wheels spinning in his head: “Hmmm, another middle aged American plotting to break free from our national health care system. “

Let’s face it: for human beings our most productive years are the half century between 18 and 68.

A Honduran teenager who travels all over Central America for the chance to work in the United States seems like a great asset. Immigrant phobes watch an 18-year-old who traveled three countries on foot to the US border as a future gangster. I see a motivated and ambitious person – male or female – with a great future. The United States was built by young wrestlers with questionable papers, including my 21-year-old ancestor James Brooke in 1699.

An Afghan returning to Kabul airport after suicide bombings deserves to be spoken to. The United States is expected to import Afghan interpreters by the C-5A Galaxy-load.

James Brooke, of Lenox, traveled to approximately 100 countries reporting for the New York Times, Bloomberg and Voice of America.

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