On July 4, Immigrants Tell Why They Love Their Adopted Home

Sushada Saichur, who came to the United States from Thailand 33 years ago, jokes with a customer at her nail-and-hair salon one block from the White House.
Sushada Saichur, who came to the United States from Thailand 33 years ago, jokes with a customer at her nail-and-hair salon one block from the White House. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
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By Kate Kilpatrick and Ruth McCann
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 4, 2009

What with the suffocating humidity, near-Biblical rain and dampened economic climate, there may be muted hip-hip-hurrays for the nation's birthday. But as the weekend's fireworks are cued up and patriots swarm the Mall, it's not hard to find denizens of the District who are just plain happy to be in this country.

For so many immigrants, the Fourth of July is as jubilant as the sky is spacious and the grains are amber. So to a random sampling, we posed a single question: What do you like about America?

Zee Bornilla, 64, from the Philippines. Living in U.S.: 18 years

(Interviewed while selling makeup at the Chanel counter inside the downtown Macy's): "I can work here. Not like in our country -- housewives don't work. That's how Filipinos are. The man is the head of the family. . . . And in our country there's no divorce. Even if you're suffering, you can't get out."

Hoa Le, 60, from Vietnam. Living in U.S.: 34 years

(Assembling hot dogs inside a food cart on George Washington University's campus): "We love that people here can get famous for cooking on TV. And I like the travel shows. [The hosts] go anywhere -- France! England! -- in an airplane."

Massimo Fabbri, 30, from Italy. Living in U.S.: nine years

(Prepping for dinner at Posto restaurant in Adams Morgan, where he's executive chef): "In Tuscany -- I was just there two weeks ago -- they're kind of sitting in a limbo. They know what they like and they stick with it. You still find the crouton with bruschetta, crouton with chicken liver pâté. But here if I don't change the menu in a couple of months, I always hear comments at the bar: 'Is there anything new?' People just love, love, love to try new things."

Natacha Saint-Val, 31, from Haiti. Living in U.S.: seven years

(Recruiting downtown for the U.S. Army, for which she's a specialist stationed in Hawaii): "The one thing I like a lot about this country is the access to education. I'm from a Third World country. In most other countries, education is practically a luxury. In this country, most people take it for granted."

Juan Aguilar, 21, from Mexico. Living in U.S.: four years

(Pushing a snow-cone cart around Mount Pleasant): "Las mujeres de este país son bonitas. Son dulces. Son amables." ("The women in this country are pretty. They are sweet. They are friendly.")


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