Sojourn of the Gypsies

By: Daniel Nardini

 Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary First they came through Mexico. From Mexico they were able to get into the United States. Then they passed through the State of Vermont and into Quebec province in Canada. They managed to elude Canadian border officials and then once in Canada called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and asked for asylum. These people were the Roma, also known as the gypsies. Why did they go all through Mexico and the United States into Canada? There is a large Roma community already established in Canada. Those Roma who had already crossed into Canada already knew of this community. Those Roma who crossed knew that they would be turned away by the United States because its immigration laws are much tougher and now offers less chances on people becoming refugees even if they qualify for refugee status. Canada’s immigration laws are less restrictive than those of the United States or Mexico, so they chose Canada. With the growing number of Roma wanting to get into Canada, the Canadian government might just change the immigration laws. That has yet to be seen. Actually, a growing number of Roma are also settling in Latin America.

One could ask why the Roma are coming to the Americas? The Roma have a very sad history of brutal treatment in Europe. Ever since the first of the Roma immigrated out of India in the 13th Century A.D., they were discriminated against, robbed and even massacred. Some countries, like Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary were more receptive to the Roma and they were allowed to stay. The 20th Century changed that. The Nazis murdered an estimated 500,000 Roma in their death camps, and the Communists were known to imprison the Roma in their slave labor camps as well as shoot them. Sadly, there has been a serious rise in discrimination against the Roma in Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. Because of this, many Roma sought refuge in France. However, the French government deported tens of thousands of Roma back to Eastern Europe, and so the Roma were put back into the fire. In Eastern Europe, many Roma are denied housing, denied higher education (or education at all), and there have been a growing number of cases where Roma are attacked and murdered.

Under these circumstances, many Roma are now fleeing to the Americas. Although the Roma have not suffered anywhere near the persecutions they have received in Europe, many governments on this continent have been lukewarm at best in receiving the Roma. This is unfortunate as the Roma are a good people who have like the Jews suffered immense discrimination. I am well aware that no one country, including the United States, can take in all of the unfortunates of the world. But I hope that the United States and Canada can take in a much maligned and persecuted group as the Roma. Their whole history in Europe has been one of sadness and persecution. This continent has taken in many refugees before, and in my view the Roma clearly deserve refuge.

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