Legal immigration offers acceptance and success
The sign outside boldly announces in large letters: “SUITZ FOR LESS.” The young man behind the counter inside is not so ostentatious. His name is Betasaaeehtash Ahadi.
“They call me Ben,” he says, a wistful smile curling at the corner of his lips. What a relief. I could not spell it and I wouldn’t even try. He gave it to me letter by letter, more than once.
Ahadi is a first generation American, born in the United States of parents who fled Afghanistan in the ‘80s.
“Afghanistan was overflowing with warring factions and my father wanted to get out of there,” said Ahadi.
His father had no use for war and when they began to draft able men into the fight, he decided to flee the coop for a less war-like atmosphere.
“My dad went first to Iran,” which was merely an intermediate station. It wasn’t long before a refugee program became available and his father soon found himself in Germany. The Germans accepted refugees early as a result of increasing exits of citizens from a Middle East seething for battle. This was some time before Osama Bin Laden became a big name in America.
“The United States, at that time, was allowing folks with trades an easier entrance into the country, and my father saw the greatest opportunity of a lifetime and took advantage of an offer to come to America, the land of opportunity for all,” he said.
His father quickly found work as a tailor in a suit factory.
“My mother did not come with him. He wasn’t married when he first came to America,” said Ahadi. “He first found a decent job, got situated and saved his money. Then he went back to Afghanistan and got married.”
The family ended up in Southern California where, 20 years ago, his father opened up Z&M Tailor shop. As a teenager, Ben went to work in his father’s shop, learning the trade that would eventually bring him to the San Jacinto Valley.
“I worked for and partnered with my father in Moreno Valley for something like 10 years, always it was in my mind to have my own shop.”
About three years ago, the thoughts that were pushed toward the back of his mind – having his own shop – became more intrusive. Recently married, he understood that he was accepting the most responsible job of his life, that of husband and head of household. But where to locate the shop?
“When I worked with my father in Moreno Valley, we often had customers from the San Jacinto Valley who said they wished they had a shop like ours in Hemet or San Jacinto. Most, however, were from Hemet. I did some research on my own and saw that no tailor shop in Hemet offered the services that we did.”
He then decided that Hemet would be the location of his own business.
“One day my father and I were in Hemet…driving down Florida Avenue when we saw this site with a “for rent” sign in the window,” recalled Ahadi. “We decided to stop and check it out.”
It so happened that the landlord owned a coin shop next door. “The sign in the window directed us to Ernest and his coin shop. Shortly thereafter, I was in business in Hemet.”
What does he offer above and beyond other tailors in the area?
“I am unique. I am more a suit shop owner than anything else. Suits are my business.”
When he opened up, the recession was beginning to slow down, but things were still not all cream and sugar.
“My first year, and somewhat today, it has been a matter of staying afloat,” said Ahadi. “Most of the recession years were spent in my dad’s shop, so I knew how to survive and I have. Things are picking up all the time.”
What specific services, besides selling suits, does he offer?
“The extra accouterments and courtesies make us unique,” he admitted. “For instance, I know the basics of tailoring so I don’t have to send work out. I don’t do major alterations and stuff like that. My main priority is suits and all that goes with them. For instance, we sell hats, ties, bow ties, shoes and shirts – all that make the man and suit a style unto themselves. Basically, making the man stand out for any occasion.
“I help them select their sizes, colors, the way something fits, and how they should dress for a specific occasion. There’s a lot more to outfitting a man for an event than one might know.”
How does he feel about undocumented immigrants as opposed to those who came here legally?
“It is hard for the illegals. They aren’t able to work above board, always hiding below the radar for fear of being deported,” said Ahadi. “Whereas, my father came here [legally] and can do or be anything he wants. Now an American citizen, he can vote, has a social security card and driver license, and opportunities that would never be available had he come here illegally.”
He did not express a personal opinion about illegal aliens, except to say he joins most people in thinking it is not good policy to deport children who were brought here as children through no choice of their own. Most folks I’ve talked to believe it’s wrong to separate children from their parents when the children only know the American way and are actually more alien to their native countries.
Ben’s wife is employed in the Hemet Mall. As yet they haven’t started a family, but he is thinking ahead about becoming a father.
As long as large corporations and farming enterprises, eager to find cheap labor, encourage illegal entry into the United States, the lure for work to support a family will always supersede laws and fences. People are people.