Monday, February 20, 2017

The Deportation of Dreams

On Saturday, I participated in my first official demonstration, which I guess technically qualifies me as an activist of some sort, right? After several years of arguing for refugee and Muslim rights on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, and in the past few years of working with predominantly undocumented individuals at work, I realized I needed to take a more active approach in the real world to support the cause. So I guess Queen Rania was right all along that online activism can lead to real world action and change, it just takes a few years more than I realized (check out my less than honorable mention at 3:03).

I am the daughter of an immigrant. My dad traveled to the United States from Mexico legally in the 1950s with my grandparents, aunt, and uncle. It was a gradual and difficult process as my grandfather scrimped and saved the money he earned from two full-time jobs in order to gather enough to secure green cards for his entire family. There was separation involved as my grandfather sent for the family members one by one to come to El Paso, Texas, Eventually they moved to Huntington Park, California, which was still a sprawling white only neighborhood back in the day, and, in the face of rampant racism, began the lengthy and expensive process of obtaining citizenship. My family worked hard to achieve this and they fervently believed in the importance of moving legally, following the rules, and beginning their new life in the US with a clean slate.

This is the environment I was raised in. Understand the sacrifice, appreciate the struggle, and observe the integrity that it took for our family to come here as documented immigrants, legal workers, and eventually legitimate Americans. My family looked down upon the undocumented immigrants who waded across the Rio Grande or high-tailed it through the desert with some shady coyote who may take advantage of their desperation or rape their women. Different sacrifices to make some feeble attempt of reaching the American Dream that so many hope for, but illegal sacrifices nonetheless. "If we came here legally, so should you!" I was fed many lies about illegal immigrants, the crime that they bring, the leeching off the system, the ineffectiveness of their existence in our economy.

For a long time I bought into this. I believed what my family would tell me because why would they lie? But as I've gotten older and wiser, as my critical thinking skills have kicked in and my brain decided to start working on its own for a change, I realized not everything is so black and white. I have come to understand the nearly impossible process involved in trying to come here legally from south of the border, and why so many break the laws to do so in any way they can. I have seen the hard work these people put in just to survive and feed their families. I have learned that while many of them are not legal residents, they have jobs that also pay taxes. I have seen them strive just to provide their children a small slice of what we all hope for growing up in this land of opportunities. I have seen them desperate to accomplish, to grow, to contribute to the country they love.

Now please do not mistake me, because I am not in support of illegal immigration. I believe that we must have an effective system in place to track and document any individuals coming into this country, whether it be our southern neighbors, our friends to the north, or any country from across the sea. These are difficult times with terrorism and violence, and we need to be aware of who enters our country, who is living in our neighborhoods. I think there is much to be done to improve the system that we already have, which clearly is not working if a terrorist can fly with his wife into California from Saudi Arabia and shoot up a regional center. But does that mean that deporting functional members of our society will solve our problems?

ICE raids have been rampant in the last few weeks, more so in Southern California where undoubtedly the Trump Administration has targeted undocumented immigrants because of the LA County Sheriff Department's refusal to help with deportation efforts and recent announcements that LA is looking to become a sanctuary city. Though the White House claims that these raids are targeting criminals, reports throughout SoCal indicate that anyone without papers is being picked up and deported. I admit I personally have no qualms with deporting undocumented individuals who have come to my country to commit crimes; if you can't respect the sanctity of our social laws, you must go! If you're here to mooch off the system, goodbye! But I can't comprehend the benefit of deporting mothers of small children who have been here for 14 years and have done nothing wrong. I can't understand why we would send a father packing for working in the fields of our agricultural divisions for 10 years and leaving his family without a provider. Why would we send parents away, leaving their American born children alone and susceptible in the US foster care system?

As I marched, I saw strength and unity in many groups of people: Muslims, Jews, Africans, Latinos. Some were refugees from war torn countries, others refugees from corrupt nations and politicians. All were marching for their right to not only exist, but to exist in a safe and secure environment, away from dropping bombs and gunfire, away from cartels and backwards police, away from poverty and disease. I also saw glimmers of fear and desperation as families pleaded to stay together, and children holding both American and Mexican flags who don't comprehend the dire situation they and their families are in with the risk of being separated forever. And I realized this is not my America.

A change must come. People who are already here must become documented and we must facilitate this process in order to help them do so, not provoke fear and intimidation in threats of being sent back to the murderous, corrupt hellhole from whence they came. Likewise, moving forward, people who plan to come here must follow the regulations set forth by our federal laws; we shouldn't make coming to America a difficult process, but it should be a required process either way to monitor for safety, security, and the economical issues of living in this country. Everyone should have the right to pursue the dream that we all strive for, no matter what the hypocritical immigrant in the white house has to say about it. Because let's not forget, FLOTUS is an immigrant who worked illegally in the US too, so if his wife deserves the opportunity, why doesn't everyone else?

Inarguably the best poster at the march

1 comment:

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