Posted by Guest on June 29, 2017 in Blog

Unknown-2.jpegBy Isaac Filat

Down South, in the small state of Arkansas, in the small city of Little Rock, in the small community of Chenal, you’ll find a Palestinian family living amongst the bunch. Though mostly assimilated, my family retains many of our Hebron ways. We are loud. We are hard headed. We cook good food. But, more importantly, we are Arkansan! 

Unknown.jpegI was born and raised in Arkansas, but my family’s arrival in the South was mostly chance. My grandfather originally immigrated to Chicago—working in a factory until one day he opened a small business. It was the “American Dream.” He worked long hours to support his family, and sooner or later, he became an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, being a small business owner came with its own set of challenges, and after being held at gun point, my grandfather decided to move. He eventually resettled in Central Arkansas where one of his siblings had already lived. In Arkansas, his entrepreneurial spirit continued, and he soon opened a jewelry store. 

Assimilating is hard, but we like to think that we have made headway in Central Arkansas. Our family has been in the area for almost 50 years and has established deep roots in the community. In an area where anti-Arab sentiment has fomented in recent years, my family remains entrenched in the local community. I’ll occasionally come across retired men and women who recognize my last name. They’ll stop and say, “My wedding band is from your grandfather’s store.” It is a constant reminder that Arkansas is home.

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Isaac Filat is external AAI intern placed at the National Immigration Law Center