Immigration. It’s a subject on everyone’s mind these days.
In the midst of all the confusion surrounding immigration I decided to weigh in. I don’t have any definite answers or opinions, but I think it is important that people like me, who are able to understand both sides, also take a stand.
When I got into salsa dancing six years ago, I entered a world that I had never known before. Even though my heritage is Hispanic, I grew up in a very American environment. I had not been around many Hispanics because the life I had led up until that point had not placed me in those social circles.
All of a sudden, I was surrounded by Spanish language, food and lots of undocumented people. And the community where I was living was in the midst of a Hispanic takeover. The previously abandoned factories that sat outside of town began humming and Mariachi could be heard from the windows of cars driving by.
I was personally overjoyed. It was an awakening time for me because not only was I being introduced to another culture, but I was coming to know my own culture. Overnight my world began making sense, and even though I couldn’t understand much Spanish yet ~ I knew it was my language.
But enough of me. The immigrants I came to know were mostly Hispanics I had class with, danced with, and ate besides. Some worked in factories, others in restaurants and construction sites. They worked really hard, and while they always met me with a smile ~ sadness was not far behind.
As I came to know them, I came to know their individual stories. I heard about days spent walking a desert with thirst and blood dripping down their face, I heard about the fear they lived with in their countries and I heard how much they missed their homes and families. I began to realize that although they appreciated my country ~ they would have preferred to stay in their own if they could have.
They were not accustomed to the long hours and serious tone of America. They were not used to be away from their family and friends ~ disconnected and often shoved into small spaces with other people so that every bit of what they made could be sent home. Their earnings went to medicines, food and clothing.
I met a sweet Colombian girl in my psychology class. I barely knew her, but when I was awarded a scholarship through a Latino organization, I told her about it. She was a very good student and I wanted her to know it was available. She quietly looked at me and told me that she couldn’t apply for scholarships because she was undocumented. Then her dark head hung forward and she said she would understand if I couldn’t be her friend anymore.
My heart broke.
Her family came from Colombia when she was a young girl. Her parents were heavily involved in politics and it became too dangerous for them to stay. Used to living in great comfort and prestige her parents took jobs in factories. Their pride was left at the door ~ all that mattered was the safety of the family.
As the years went by I heard more stories and have come to know more undocumented immigrants. While there are those that come to take and steal and worsen America ~ there are many more who are here hoping to make it and provide for their families. Their countries have become riddled with bad policy and war-like conditions and when they heard of the opportunity in America ~ they came.
I find it ironic that Americans have heard these stories and still point fingers in their faces. Would you not do whatever it took to take care of your family? To keep them safe and protect their lives? To feed them and give them a life filled with opportunity and education? Who wouldn’t do this? And if it meant doing something wrong ~ would that really stop you?
America is full of crooked people who screw whomever to get whatever they want, yet when a man or woman crosses the border to try and find work to support his family or find safety he is ridiculed. As human beings we have survival instincts, and it is those instincts that tell us to find safety, or food, or shelter. What is a law when a hungry child is tugging at your shirt bottom or when your mother is dying because she doesn’t have medicine?
Would a law really stop you? It sure as hell wouldn’t stop me.
So the battle continues.
I am in complete agreement that coming to this country illegally is just that ~ illegal. I agree wholeheartedly that if someone comes to this country to settle down they need to learn our language and understand our history. I agree that everyone should go through the process of becoming an American if they are not an American. I agree that stealing identities and personal information to attain jobs, apts. and status should be considered a federal crime and prosecuted to the fullest extent.
I also agree that our government has been slack and allowed illegal immigration to reach a boiling point and I agree that the naturalization process for an immigrant needs to be re-evaluated.
Our government needs to get off their flattened rear-ends and do something about all of this so that we, as a nation, can move on.
It is hard for me to be angry with people who appreciate my country more than I ever will and who work harder than I ever will.
I get just as annoyed (if not more because I am Hispanic) when I am asked to translate for someone who has been in this country for years, but hasn’t taken the time or initiative to learn the language. I would never dare go to another country and not learn their language.
But I am not going to lie and say that I don’t prefer the way that their culture is coloring our culture. I love the music, the food, the laughter, the social drinking, the way that they revere family and the importance put upon the family. They have tradition and haven’t yet forgotten that life is meant to be lived ~ not just worked.
This country will not ever be the same. America will never be able to rid itself of all illegal immigrants or push these people out ~ regardless of what laws are passed and regardless of how much weight is thrown about. And while we are at it, let’s remind ourselves that although Hispanics are the greatest number of immigrants ~ they are by no means alone.
All this hate isn’t solving anything and when our lawmakers want to take away the rights of children who were born here or change our Bill of Rights just to try to deal with this issue ~ we are missing the point.
America should be better than this.