I try not to get into politics too much in this blog, but not in the bury-your-head-in-the-sand kind of way, just more of a “I’m already pretty open about my politics in every other medium” kind of way. But almost a year ago I pointed out that I am very big on two things: Immigration and education. We can go back and forth over the economy, over gun rights, healthcare, and I’ll argue for and against either side.
However, when it comes to immigration and education, I’m unabashedly left-of-center.
(Of course, if I ever end up teaching, I plan on following the model that 90% of my teachers in HS and college followed: My students won’t find out what my political affiliations are until they come back for their 10 year reunion or become really good at Google)
Recently, there’s been a lot of hubbub concerning President Trump’s, um, “highly questionable” approach to immigration, and establishing a Muslim ban from a bunch of different countries that have killed a total of 0 Americans between 1975 and 2015. ()
That’s not a figure from some NowThis/HuffPo left-leaning media. That’s from the Cato Institute. I realized this a few weeks ago: Not only was I, a normally left-leaning individual, siding with the Cato Institute, we were also on the same side as Michael Moore, the Pope, and former vice president Dick Cheney. That’s how bad the idea is.
We are a nation of immigrants.
Our last president was the son of an immigrant. This past election season we had Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio running for the GOP (Ted Cruz was born in Canada, Marco Rubio in the US to Cuban parents). Without immigrants, we wouldn’t be making the technological and research advancements we’ve been making. Without immigrants, the British would have routed Washington and the Continental Army.
“But, we’re talking about illegal immigration and refugees from dangerous countries! That’s different, DosAguilas!”
Is it, though?
I don’t think it is.
See, I’m big on what comes three, four, five, steps ahead. Let’s say there’s sound reasoning for this ban even though we already have a very thorough vetting process. What’s stopping them from going even further? If you start making allowances now, where do you stop? Do you stop when the ban covers all the Middle East? Do you stop when the ban is applied across the board? Do you stop when they start going after people? Do you stop when they start stripping permanent residencies or citizenships? How confident are you (and this question is really for pro-ban/pro-wall Latinos) that you or someone you’re close to won’t be next? This isn’t just a “we’ll see if it happens” thing, this has already been happening under Obama.
I’m not talking about someone that just crossed over last week. I’m talking about someone who’s been in the United States since they were three being rounded and up and sent back to a country they have no memory of or attachment to.
Remember to know your rights.
Our own elected officials use that to further divide the Latino community. “Hey, Miguel. You’re not like those people. You’re one of us. You got here the right way, so you should vote for our guy!”
And we fall for it.
I tell people to consider what these refugees are doing, it doesn’t matter from what country they’re from: Their situation at their home country is so bad they’re willing to risk everything to make it here. It feels stupid to argue “they’re cutting in line” as if the refugee jumped you by a person to get some Marble Slab ice cream. Just put yourself in their place: How would you feel if you were forced to leave your home and move to another country where no one speaks your language or understands your culture?
Now, before I’m accused of wanting open borders, I have to clarify that I don’t want that. I don’t think any human being is illegal and I’ll maintain that immigration violations are civil violations and not criminal offenses. But concerning border security: I want a compassionate immigration system. I want families to not be torn apart. I want a process that is welcoming. I want CBP and ICE officers to be well-trained and well-funded and provided with the technological support they need.
WALLS AREN’T TECHNOLOGICAL SUPPORT. THEY’RE WALLS. THEY DON’T DO ANYTHING.
So, yeah, support immigrants’ rights. If you want to really get a handle on the subject, I can’t recommend Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey enough.
That being said, I’m going to make this writing-related.
Immigration is part of everyone immigrant’s narrative. Whether they’re refugees or naturalized American citizens.
However, last week I said I was going to stray away from the immigrant narrative, and this is because I am still determining what my own voice is like and how it fits therein. I've spoken about my association with the Librotraficante movement and the movement to keep Mexican-American Studies in schools. I confess to sometimes feeling like a fraud. Like la causa doesn't apply to me. And part of that is my own upbringing in comparative, middle class privilege. My own immigrant narrative is not one of harrowing travels through the desert or being chased by nefarious CBP and ICE agents. I did have to wait a long time for the opportunity to be an LPR, but we had the opportunity to wait. And when we did move, we went from one city in the border to another city in the border. Although there was culture shock, for the most part, I was moving into a homogenous environment.
Speaking for myself, nothing inside really changed. I read the same books. Celebrated the same holidays. Ate the same food. Spoke the same language at home. External things did change: moving from a gas to an electric stove, moving from a house to an apartment, a lot more Hot Pockets, everything getting real quiet at 10 p.m. But because the Valley is so Latino, my transition was simplified. This is not to say “no, pity me, I had a blessed childhood!”, it’s not. I know it’s good for writers to have that dark and suffer-y (boom, #AlternativeWords) but I didn’t. I am very fortunate and very thankful for the support system I’ve had my entire life.
Here is a snapshot of a random Friday in 2005:
7:45 a.m. – dropped off at school because I had inexplicably developed severe driving anxiety that didn’t fade until the following fall.
8:00 a.m. -3:18 p.m. – go to school.
3:18-4:00 p.m. – spend time after school arguing over what movie we would watch
4:00-7:30 p.m. – go to mall, hang out, eat at the food court, watch movie since we weren’t going to go to the football game (2edgy4you)
7:30-9:30 p.m. – catch another movie at home or just hang out at someone’s place (A variant here was going to Chilli’s since we couldn’t agree on a place to go eat and settled on the place we all equally disliked)
9:30 p.m. -3:00 a.m. – waste time on the internet either talking to an unrequited crush/internet friends, reading a book, or writing on my livejournal/xanga/myspace blog.
That’s the same Friday millions of American teenagers have.
When I arrived in Houston, my transition wasn’t that of a new immigrant to the United States. I was already, as some might say, Americanized.
My transition wasn’t Mexican - > American. My transition was moving from point A to point B. It was the transition of a small-town boy into the big city. It was a transition mirrored by my then-girlfriend as she moved from the rural Midwest to Houston. Point A to Point B.
(Although I had an advantage since Houston summer felt just like home to me)
So my decision to step away from the immigration narrative comes from all of that. Come talk to me and I’ll point you in the direction of writers who integrate that narrative in beautiful prose. I’ll point you to writers who will talk about the nature and the struggle of being bicultural and finding their place. I'll give you one example: Benjamin Alire Saenz's Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club that's a great example and one of the most powerful books I've ever read.
I have decided to chart my own path, and if people want to follow, cool, if they don't, that's also cool. I'm doing my own thing, not to rebel, not to be eccentric, but just because it's who I am.
(Lyrics from Ricardo Arjona and Intocable - Mojado)