Immigration Stories

This is a selection of stories from A Nation of Nations by Tom Gjelten

The Alarcón boys

Victor Alarcón, Sr., followed his sisters-in-law to the United States even though he had no contacts there and spoke no English.


Like thousands of other non-European immigrants who came to the United States after the 1965 immigration reforms, Esam Omeish and his family settled in Fairfax County, Virginia. In 1970, Fairfax County was more than ninety percent white, with an African-American minority population that was just overcoming decades of segregation and prejudice.


Like most Americans, Tom Gjelten comes from an immigrant family. His grandfather, Nicolai Ordahl, was born and raised on a farm in Norway.

Michael Feighan & LBJ

The 1965 Immigration Act, which eliminated the use of national origin quotas in the selection of immigrants, was enacted in the midst of the civil rights movement and the Great Society legislative initiatives under President Lyndon Johnson.

Mark Keam (Sun Yeop Kim)

As a young man, he was fascinated by politics and by the promise of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, with its vision of an alliance between minorities and immigrants of color. In Northern Virginia, he became a political activist, organizing Fairfax County in support of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Anwar Omeish

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.

Anwar Al-Awlaki

His case illustrated how difficult it sometimes was to determine who and why some Muslims became radicalized.

Alex (Gyeong) Keam

A 1965 law made immigration to the United States possible for people around the world who previously would not have qualified for admission to the country.