LatinaLista — One of the reasons why the immigration marches and rallies of last spring were so powerful was because the actual voices of those affected by the debate were speaking out.
Too often their voices get lost amid the rhetoric from everybody else (including Latina Lista :)) who are so busy trying to speak for them, that we don’t stop long enough to let them speak for themselves.
Regardless of their citizenship status, it’s an inalienable right of every human to be able to express themselves – and to be heard.
This afternoon, as I was driving home from work, this extreme anger came over me that ultimately led to me feeling like a coward. I was recalling the day before; my mother and I had stopped by La Michoacana to get some groceries and as we walked in, I noticed El Dia newspaper and itâ€™s headlines. In big black bold letters, the word â€œILEGALâ€ or â€œILLEGAL,â€œ was written. Twice. Twice on the front cover. It wasnâ€™t written on there 3 times because there was no space left. My mind was overflowed with thoughts, the primary one being, â€œhasta nuestro mismo pinche pueblo, nos quiere convencer que somos ilegales.â€ â€œeven our own want to convince us that we are â€œillegal.â€
After thinking about that for a while I began to think harder and longer. I figured who exactly is â€œour pueblo?â€ Who is writing these headlines that we are constantly bombarded with? How many times is that filthy word written in their publication? Once, twice, it doesnâ€™t really matter. Just because it is a Spanish written newspaper, do they deserve my thought of â€œnuestro pueblo?â€ After thinking longer, I was left with the thought that to do so would be to give them more credit than they deserve.
â€œillegal,â€ according to dictionary.com is defined as â€œforbidden by law or statue.â€ After thinking about the definition of the word â€œillegal,â€ I thought about how the word has managed to become so mainstream. So mainstream in fact that it is accepted even by Spanish written media. We all know what fruits await us when persistence is practiced. So I guess if enough Lou Dobbs, or organizations like US BORDER WATCH, throw the word â€œillegalâ€ around, even our â€œown,â€ will adopt and accept the word. I thought about how amazing it is that this country has adopted a hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric. This rhetoric only perpetuates a cycle that has happened at various points throughout history. So many groups of people have been terrorized and outcast in this country. The Irish, the Polish, Blacks, and now it is our turn. I wonderd then, how many of those who were once terrorized and outcast now proudly stand and blame â€œillegalsâ€ for everything? How many of them now say that they came here legally? How may of them arrived in New York where a simple signature was enough to make you a citizen?
I have been fortunate enough in my young life to be able to spend time with plenty of fellow â€œillegals,â€ I have seen the faces, I have heard their stories, and have shared in the fight. I have sat across those who retell the story of their â€œtio,â€ or â€œtia,â€ being deported. To witness the tears and to share in the pain is excruciating. Day by day the feelings grow stronger. To witness organizations like US BORDER WATCH dragging the Mexican flag tied to a â€œsombrero,â€ while basking under the cover that catch phrases like â€œfor the sake of national securityâ€ gives them. What does national security have to do with dragging the Mexican flag?
I wondered then, if those who are responsible for writing â€œillegal,â€ or those folks from U.S. BORDER WATCH ( who for the last few Saturdays have been terrorizing day labor sites) have had the opportunity to be in similar situations that â€œillegalsâ€ have been in. Situations like the one that an interviewee retold. The 21 year old was telling about how his grandma was dying in Mexico, and how all he wanted to do was go and visit and at least be able to witness his grandmotherâ€™s death. He was caught in a no win situation: go back and have a hard time coming back, or stay and get a dreaded phone call making his grandmaâ€™s death official. Another told a story of how he awoke to the sound of his wife asking him if he had seen his brother in law. His wife had not heard the brother in law come back from work. The small family heard nothing of their brother in law for days, until some neighbors from within the apartment complex told them that â€œla migraâ€ had been there and had taken the young man.
We have all heard the stories, but I wonder if those same folks who proudly yell the word â€œillegalâ€ really know who they are talking about. Do they really know the mother, the father, the son or daughter at the receiving end of their insults? Or do they just sit in the ignorance that false patriotism gives them? Are they scared that if they cared to meet the families or if they put down their hateful signs long enough to look into the eyes of the â€œillegalsâ€ that their stone cold hearts would melt?
As to how all these thoughts eventually led to me feeling like a coward happened as follows. I am a DREAM ACT student. For those who are not aware of the DREAM ACT, it is proposed legislation which would basically provide a means of legalization for undocumented students. Under the proposed legislation, a student has the choice of joining the military or going to college. Upon itâ€™s implementation the DREAM ACT would immediately help thousands and thousands of students. Students like me. I came here at the age of 4 with my mom and sister. Assimilated, studied, did all that was asked of me. Bought the â€œAmerican dream.â€ Without the DREAM ACT, when I graduate with my degree in social work, I will not be able to legally work. Many ask, â€œ why donâ€™t you just legalize?â€ Simply put, with the backlog of immigration applications, my tiny application is insignificant and remains pending. (another requirement of the DREAM ACT, is the student must have filed for his or her paperwork)
I then thought of the massive protests around the country last year and the current efforts by various advocates, organizations, and students around the country to build support for the DREAM ACT. I wondered what it would be like if I alone walked up to the ICE offices and just turned myself in. Just walked up and said, â€œ here is your â€œillegalâ€ tired of hiding, tired of being in this psychological prison. Tired of following the rules for 23 years only to be told that the one rule my mother broke years ago of crossing the border is my ball and chain. (if pursuing a better future for her family can be considered breaking the rules)
Would ICE take me in, process me, and take me to the place I was born? Would the action attract media attention and start a revolution? Would the world finally notice what has been happening to over 60,000 students a year? After thinking of the possibilities that an action like that would have, I slapped myself in the middle of the freeway. I dare not risk the safety of my family. My sister, my mother. These thoughts are what ultimately made me feel like a coward for not going that very minute to ICE headquarters and turning myself in.
I was left with anger and a self loathing feeling that maybe that action alone would be all that was needed in order to stop students from being held back. The memories of interviews like the one of a young lady who graduates this semester ran through my mind. To hear her despair as she felt lost and alone. To accompany her in her efforts to get a driverâ€™s license only to be turned down for lack of documen
tation. To be able to bear witness to great people such as her is what keeps me going. To remember their words, their pain, their struggle is what keeps me alive. To think of how students like her keep going even under the constant harassment of slurs like â€œillegal,â€ is my food for thought.
As for this â€œillegal,â€ I have nothing left to do, but to join the young lady and to continue â€œpisando fuerte.â€
All these thoughts for the bargain price of 25 cents. 25 cents which Iâ€™m sure El Dia doesnâ€™t consider â€œillegal.â€