Video: Reagan's impact on immigrants

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/9/2004 10:08:47 PM ET 2004-06-10T02:08:47

Ronald Reagan's United States includes a large number of immigrants who say they admire him — people like Farna Novin-Baheran, who was born in Iran.  Upon hearing of Reagan’s death he said, “I cried. He was hero.”

Reagan’s vision of America resonates with many immigrants.  Years ago, speaking at his library dedication, Reagan said, “May every day be a new beginning and every dawn bring us closer to that shining city on a hill.”

Novin-Baheran agreed, “It is shining city.  That’s why we came over here in this country for freedom.”

Near Ronald Reagan’s burial site, there is a piece of the old Berlin Wall.  In his now famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Reagan warned, “Mr.  Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Those words are remembered by John Sokoloff. “I’m a Russian-American and I will always be grateful to Ronald Reagan for destroying a system that has killed more people than any other system,” he said.

Of course, there’s disagreement among immigrants and minorities about President Reagan. Many feel that in fighting the Cold War, his administration armed human rights violators in Central America and Muslim extremists in Afghanistan and that Reagan ignored apartheid in South Africa and the problems of blacks here at home.

But he was a hero to Claudia Bermudez, a native of Nicaragua, who brought a picture of her father to the library.  “I was saying goodbye not only to our American icon, Ronald Reagan, but I was also saying goodbye to my father,” she said.

Her dad was Enrique Bermudez, the military head of the CIA-supported “Contras” who were fighting against Nicaragua’s leftist government.

But President Reagan got in trouble for the way his aides funneled money to the Contras, in violation of the law.

Claudia Bermudez, now a Republican running for Congress, finds no fault with that as she mourns Ronald Reagan.   She said, “He helped rid us of communism.”

And, she added, when she paid her respects at the library, she was overcome.  “It’s a final goodbye and it hurts," she said. "It hurts.”

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