Thursday, June 21, 2007

A very touchy subject.

Immigration, somehow I don't think that in the cloistered world that George W. lives in that he really, I mean really gets how our country is changing. I think he is surrounded largely by white people and I have noticed that it seems like anyone with any racial diversity around him seems to get stuck with some pretty lousy work. Gonzales for example. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if W put him up as a sacrificial lamb to do dirty work in the partisan way. Colin Powell, an amazing man, also trod over (not listened to), it seemed pretty continuously. Connie Rice, a woman who amazes me, I am waiting for her slam dunk.

And as a teacher who works with kids whose parents are getting hauled away on raids...kids who I love (no I am not afraid to say that) because I know how hard they work and the tough spots they are in at times.

My kids were going to the rallies for immigration this year. It was very good for them to organize, to participate in the political process. I know they are subject to racial attacks regularly, we live in a poor area where drugs and gangs are very real to them. And so is ignorance from everyone who is not with their same skin color. It would be better for them to empower themselves through visibility than to fall into rebellion via gangs/crime.

Immigration. The whole process, every step of it is pretty astonishing to me. To risk ones family, ones babies, marraige to push into another country. To leave their communities, their churches, schools and families. The streets they know, the language. And then to come here, with a new language, get jobs in the lowest most taken advantage sector, where the work is more akin to a kind of benevolent slavery. I know they do it out of hope for a better future, for their kids and their grandkids. Ten percent of the entire population of Mexico has done it for that reason.

Immigration, particularly illegal immigration, seems like a violence to families. I am against it. It is so hard on families. They put themselves in a state of total dependence. It is a risk that I cannot comprehend.

I will not be the one to deny bread to a mom who needs to breastfeed her child. It would be inhuman to deny care to people who are hurt, food to the hungry, or education to their children based on political status. To rub people's noses in their own difficulties or turn a blind eye because of political status. I don't comprehend who would do that either.

My kids tell me they march with the flag of Mexico draped on their shoulders. I think they are confused. I know they want to not be ashamed of their heritage, indeed, they should be proud. But in the face of people making the laws of the country of America, people wearing Mexican flags have no voice among the lawmakers of America. There is a confusion of identity. America is not Mexico, it is not for the legislators to make laws endorsing the desires of people of another country.

My students tell me that if a person is against immigration they are racist. And the conversation ends right there. There can be no dialogue if there is no listening. They tell me that their life is hard, and I know. I know they are stuck, and for that very reason, immigration is not a good thing any longer.

I believe that America, in its wealth, has a responsibility to be generous. And we should be. But when I hear people chant that they are going to take back California because it is theirs..., or call me a racist because I don't want to hear anymore stories about people perishing in the backs of semi trucks attempting to cross...

I want my students to stand up. But wisely. Not to shoot themselves in their own feet. I want them to have access to all I have access to-college and health care and jobs and legal status. But I don't want them to demand this in ways that create a wider divide. And I want everyone to have enough food for their families, and I want even to help them. But I think immigration, especially this mass movement must end until there is some way to make the transition less desperate for families.

And I don't think anyone should be called a racist because they think immigration is something that needs to be addressed.

1 comment:

Zhenya said...

You said it beautifully, Heather...right on! Most of the students I teach are also illegal. I love them as well and don't think about their status until I start to get an attitude from them. I have little patience when they tell me that 'American ways are stupid' and that they hate it here and that there is no place like Mexico. I guess they're entitled to their opinion and it is OK to be proud of their heritage. But I also think that they get away with a lot more nationlism than Americans would.