Immigration. Because the word "illegal" so often precedes "immigration," the latter has taken on an almost permanent political charge, evoking a variety of responses ranging from what some would call fervent patriotism to those who express more tolerance for those who cross our borders. In Southwest Idaho, immigration issues tend to center on undocumented workers in the valley, but that's only a portion of the larger picture both historically and presently.
Without the historical immigration that's taken place in Boise, the city's cultural framework might look much different. Imagine a downtown without the Basque Block or a phone book without the common last names of Ysursa, Goicoechea or Bieter. More recently, Boise has welcomed large numbers of Bosnians and refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Bhutan and a number of African countries.
This week's Boise Weekly, in two separate stories, unintentionally touches on two points of immigration in Boise. The first takes a sort of bird's-eye historical view of Basques in Boise as writer Tara Morgan travels with a large group of Boiseans to New York City, where a Basque Museum exhibit celebrating Basque immigration will be on display at Ellis Island through May. It's a story of celebration and triumph, and the kind of story that can only be told in retrospect.
News is where you'll find the second story of immigration in this week's edition, and it hones in on the ugliness and difficulty that often precedes a population's full integration into its new society. While croquettas and Mladi Behar are familiar to Boiseans, many newer arrivals are still learning the basic day-to-day tasks of first-world life. Sometimes those lessons are much more difficult than how to properly use an oven, and sometimes they are tinged with the perception of injustice. In "Take a Village" writer Nathaniel Hoffman tells the story of a Burundian woman whose six children were removed from her care by the State of Idaho after she was found unfit as a parent. Advocates for the woman contend that the state's perception of her inability to care for her children is the result of a cultural differences. How the case unfolds in the coming months could set an interesting precedent for an entire generation of new immigrants. As developments occur, we'll keep you updated.