Esam and Badria Omeish and their daughters Abrar and Anwar have all been leaders in their communities in Northern Virginia. Esam, who came to America at the age of fifteen, was active in the Muslim Students Association at both the local and national levels.
His wife Badria, a molecular biologist, is a college teacher. Abrar and Anwar excelled in their public high schools and went on to study at Yale and Harvard, respectively.
The 1965 Immigration Act brought new opportunities for people from predominantly Muslim countries to move to the United States, and Muslims are now one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the country. Their integration in American society has exemplified the country’s diversity, though many have also faced discrimination and prejudice.
Like most Americans, author Tom Gjelten comes from an immigrant family. His grandfather, Nicolai Ordahl, was born and raised on a farm in Norway but felt compelled to move to America when the farm passed to an older brother and he was left without employment opportunities.
As a Norwegian immigrant in the early twentieth century, Nicolai had much in common with the non-European immigrants who benefitted from the 1965 immigration reforms, but the later wave of immigrants faced obstacles that Nicolai’s generation did not encounter. A Nation of Nations tells the story of how America as a nation was transformed by the 1965 Immigration Act.
Gjelten is a veteran journalist for NPR News with experience covering both national and international issues.
Immigration is often said to be an entrepreneurial act, a gamble taken with the expectation of a future reward for the up-front risk. Victor Alarcón, Sr., followed his sisters-in-law to the United States even though he had no contacts there and spoke no English.
Over the next twenty years he learned English, taught himself new skills, worked in a variety of jobs, and even went into business for himself. He passed his energy and entrepreneurial drive on to his sons, who grew up in Fairfax County, Virginia, surrounded by other immigrants. Álvaro’s closest friends in high school were two other young immigrants, one from Pakistan and one from Korea.