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Sunday, June 17, 2007

The American Way

Last March, a horrific house fire in the Bronx, probably caused by the improper use of a space heater, killed the wife and four children of Mamadou Soumare, an illegal immigrant from Mali. In addition, the five children of Moussa Magassa, a friend of Soumare's and the owner of the house, were also killed. The aftermath of this tragedy was one of those inspiring events we don't see enough of these days, an outpouring of generosity. Huge sums of money were donated, and political figures successfully lobbied immigration authorities to allow Soumare to return to the United States after travelling to Africa to bury his family. The support he received, according to his lawyer, "lit the shadow of his tragedy with light."

Wait a sec, according to his lawyer? Yep, that's right, for you see last week Michael Wildes, representing Mamadou Soumare, filed a notice of claim, the first step in a lawsuit, against the City, the Fire Department (which arrived three minutes after being called and suffered two injuries among its own) and, for good measure, Soumare's friend Magassa, who owned the house and lost his five kids. The suit will allege the City "fail[ed]to do the appropriate inspections," that the FDNY "failed to respond in a timely manner to extinguish or control the fire" and Soumare's pal Magassa "knew or should have known that a dangerous condition existed in this area and/or otherwise in the dwelling." The damages asked will be $100 million.

I have long argued that while immigration is good for America, it is imperative immigrants become assimilated to the American way of life in order to be good and productive citizens, able to fit in with their neighbors. Isn't it heartening Mamadou Soumare has been such a quick and able study? And bless those dedicated ambulance chasers for so selflessly undertaking his tutelage.

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