The Price of the American Dream

No matter where or when I travel in the United States, I always make time to chat with people, especially those in difficult, low-paying jobs.

I still have in mind this discussion with a taxi driver from Boston. He had left the USSR and confided to me that he worked between 70 and 80 hours a week. Even at an advanced age and despite failing health, there was no respite.

When I asked him why he did not prefer Canada, his answer was: “I work hard, but I was convinced that my son could succeed here. He studies at Harvard, as we dreamed of.

I thought about this man a lot while commenting on the fate of the migrants that Governor DeSantis cavalierly removed. They too are betting on leaving everything behind because they believe in the famous American dream.

This dream has a hard life. That it was only possible for very brief periods in American history does not seem to lessen its effect. However, more than ever since 1945, it is inaccessible.

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An illusion

How to sum it up? Despite modest origins, the only fruit of your labor can allow you to experience success. We would like to believe it, but if you were born in the United States and your family ends up in the 20% of households that earn the least, you have only a 7.5% chance of finding yourself among the Top 20% paid.

When we make a comparison with other countries such as the United Kingdom (9%), Denmark (12%), Canada (13.5%) and Sweden (15.7%), we quickly notice that newcomers risk facing a brutal reality.

If it is more difficult than before for people born in the United States to significantly improve their lot in 2022, the same can unfortunately be said for migrants. The deadlines for processing their application are longer than ever and the risk of being abruptly rejected is very high.

Dream to nightmare?

What is meant by « long »? If before we waited in makeshift shelters for a few days or a few weeks, we now do so for several months, sometimes for more than a year. In 2020 and 2021, almost two million were rejected.

To expectation and rejection must be added a dark prospect: death. Life on the border comes with enormous risks, from kidnapping to the omnipresence of drug traffickers. The Mexican authorities regularly find bodies which are then deposited in mass graves when they are not claimed.

No doubt the migrants who travel hundreds of miles before glimpsing the « promised land » demonstrate the courage, determination and stubbornness necessary to embody some version of the American dream, but I’m afraid no one has says that between myth and reality, it is too often the nightmare that awaits them.


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