Video: Visions of a global village?

By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/6/2006 7:58:34 PM ET 2006-06-06T23:58:34

A crowded corner of Queens, New York — 49th Street and Skillman — is a far cry from America's border war out west.

At first glance the immigration debate and its consequences seem far off. But look more closely, and you see a neighborhood that’s among the most diverse in the city on the leading edge of this fight.

Some are afraid.

Luis Amigo owns a bodega — a small Hispanic market. He says he won't visit his sister anymore, fearing he'll now get stuck in Mexico.

“It's not easy like it was before,” Amigo says. “Now they send the National Guard to check the border. It's hard. It's really hard.”

Gary O'Neill moved here from Ireland 13 years ago and says: “There's fear from Americans that immigrants are going to take all their jobs and make wages low.”

Community activist Ana Maria Archilla sees something else — a new desire to stay and fight for citizenship. For her, leaving is not an option. 

“It’s especially not an option for people who have spent a large portion of their lives here and have given their labor to this country and have raised families here,” she says.

The immigrants in this neighborhood — legal and illegal — are mobilizing, with tactics big and small. Archilla organized a neighborhood march on May 1. Meanwhile, dozens of neighborhood moms learn English seven days a week. Archilla thinks that’s a tool in the fight now. 

“They're eager,” she says, “both to demonstrate that there is goodwill and there's an intention to be fully part of the American society.”

There is also this appeal to not let today's politics change the country.

“We will fail our forefathers,” says Father Joseph Jerome at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Queens, “if we are not doing what we are supposed to do — welcome immigrants — because we are a country of immigrants.”

Especially here at 49th and Skillman.

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