A day without a child of an immigrant

A few days ago, I still had not made a decision on whether I’d be staying home from work and school on Monday, May 1st. The decision didn’t come easily despite years of activism around immigrants’ rights and an academic interest in immigrant students.

I realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. My roommate, a teacher at a LAUSD high school hadn’t decided when we spoke about the topic on Thursday night. She was unsure about skipping out on the first day of classes when she returns for B track. I didn’t want to skip work after a short week at a new job. We also both knew that our jobs — positions that require advanced degrees — are not the types where most immigrants from Latin American are concentrated. It’s easy to go a day without spending, but not teaching or working with students didn’t come easy. I’ve read other Latina/o bloggers who are also conflicted. They are all educators and feel that the education of their students will also contribute to the boycott and overall goal of empowering Latinas/os.

Although I respect decisions to go to work, I know that I had to change my mind. I thought of my grandparents who came here with several children in hopes of a better life. Although my parents and their families did not come as undocumented immigrants, I know well that I have a number of extended family members and good friends who do not have that privilege. I considered the day I walked through UCLA’s main thoroughfare, Bruin Walk, observing a D√≠a de los Muertos display of crosses set up in remembrance of men and women how had died crossing the US-Mexico border. It all seemed rather abstract considering most of the people close to me are not immigrants and have not had to sneak across the border. Well, it was abstract until I read a cross with “____ Mosqueda, Guanajuato, Mexico.” I can’t remember the first name. I know it was a common name, probably Jos√©, Jes√∫s or Juan. But the last name and state of origin struck me. This man (or boy?) who shared my name and home state in Mexico had died in the harsh territory separating the country my family came from and the country in which I live.

My privilege as the daughter of immigrants, college student, and US citizen became incredibly clear that afternoon. It’s something I know other young Chicanas/os and Latinas/os also identify with, including C√©sar Cuauht√©moc Garc√≠a Hern√°ndez who wrote about why he would skip classes at Alternet

I will join the boycott because my privilege demands it. I am a citizen of this country, a well-educated man with a love of justice. I must speak now because the people who clean my classrooms might not be able to, because the people who prepare the restaurant dinners I eat might not be able to, because the people about whose lives Congress is debating cannot talk back except through the power of protest.

I will stand with my immigrant sisters and brothers because I recognize and value their contribution to our country. I will join the nationwide boycott because their work makes my privilege possible. I will join because, as the book of Leviticus teaches: “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as thyself.” (Lev. 19:34).

12 Replies to “A day without a child of an immigrant”

  1. I’m still very conflicted over this issue, in part because I hate that people are making this about being “pro-immigrant” and not more realistically, “pro-illegal-immigrant”. Call a spade a spade. This is like the anti-abortion crowd calling themselves “pro-life” as if the “pro-choicers” are “pro-death”. I’m not anti-immigrant, but I am opposed to illegal immigration – but the “pro-illegal-immigrant” side seems to want to devalue my opinion and equate me with bigots…

    Alas, I do find that my huge respect for the millions of undocumented workers here outweighs my frustration with the fact that they knowingly broke our laws and now claim to be victims. Its frustrating, indeed.

    I hope to attend the protests not so much to support either side of the argument but to observe the mass of people exercising their natural right to free speech. I certainly hope it remains peaceful for all involved.

  2. Nicely said, David. Most of us are children of immigrants — legal immigrants. But if you want what this country has to offer as a citizen, come here legally, learn the language, learn our history, and go through the same process other legal immigrants have gone through. If you’re just visiting, that’s fine, too. But go through the Visa process and obey the rules. Don’t sneak across the border and demand full citizenship — you don’t deserve it and haven’t earned it.

  3. David,

    You’ve stated your viewpoint on the issue again and again. Don’t know what else I can say aside from the fact that this piece was more about the fact that the choice for a supporter to participate in the boycott does not come easily.

    Lee,

    I’m not sure if you read the post and know that your comments might not have been directed at me specifically. However, my parents and grandparents did come here with visas. I don’t say this to separate myself from undocumented immigrants or to give more legitimacy to my words. I’ve learned the language and the history as have my parents and their siblings, but thanks for your suggestion.

  4. Since our Mayor will be out of town, I fail to see why anyone of any intelligence is agonizing over this issue. I’m sorry for the poor illegals who are going to be props in a larger, stupider drama. I doubt that anyone who’s a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips will be spending the day on the streets.

  5. Well, I have to tell everyone that I am on the fence about these issues. I had the good fortune to be born in the USA. My mother came from Mexico and outstayed her tourist visa over 30 years ago. She went through the process of becoming legal, quite some time ago. Was it easy? No. She had to apply in Oregon, because it was so difficult in California at that time.

    I remember my aunt working long hours scrubbing toilets to support her kids, my mother, and my sister and me. It was not easy, and she still tells stories of how they used to look for food that people threw away in garbage cans in public parks.

    I grew up in Middle America knowing that I felt like an “Other”, although I was born in this country, because I was perceived as “Other” by the people in Middle America despite the fact that our family tried very hard to assimilate. I am now a successful engineer, I pay my taxes, and I vote. And I recognize that being an American citizen not only entails Rights, but also Responsibilities. All of us have basic human rights as American citizens. But, let’s not forget that we have the RESPONSIBILITY to let our officials know if they do not represent us or the common good of our country. It is my opinion that we, as American citizens, are at fault through inaction much of the time. The only time this seems to change is when something affects our pocketbooks.

    For those that have access to books and the desire to cure their ignorance, I recommend “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki. It put in perspective for me how both legal and illegal immigrants have contributed to the well being of this country, how people that are perceived as “Other” are welcomed when there are more jobs than people to do them (or willing to do them at a slave’s wage), the backlash against these “Others” when they are perceived as a threat to job security or a way of life, and how most ethnic groups that have come to this country have been wronged at one point or another in this country’s history.

    To wrap things up, I’d like your opinion, bloggers. I am an assimilated Mexican-American born in the USA to an immigrant family. Do I boycott tomorrow? Do I contine to write my elected officials? Please, tell me what you think. Thank you.

  6. cindylu, that wasn’t aimed at you. I find this whole situation ludicrous. There’s a legal process, use it. If you (not you specifically) don’t choose to, you shouldn’t be here, and you damn sure don’t deserve a free pass.

  7. I am also conflicted by this issue. Especially when the so called advocates of “anti-illegal immigration” seem to only have one argument: “they broke the law and therefore they shouldn’t be demanding any privileges.” They fail abruptly in getting their point across when it comes to other issues regarding illegal immigration. Denial is their game when it comes to see the contributions that illegal immigrants make to this country.

    I also hate the fact that there are racist people hiding under the mask of “I am not a racist, I am only against illegal immigration” but no effort is given when it comes time to distinguish between “legal immigrants” and “illegal immigrants.” Why don’t they call themselves by what they are? This is like calling the people that want a solution to the problem of illegal immigration “pro-illegal-immigration advocates” or “anti-Americans.”

    But really, does a person that breaks the law by crossing the border wanting a better life really as dangerous as say someone that breaks the law by breaking into someone’s house with the intention of stealing? Which of the two is most dangerous? Avoiding to declare all your income when tax season comes, isn’t that also breaking the law? People that drive under the influence of alcohol who are probably the most dangerous people since they can inflict death on others, isn’t that also breaking the law? People that put other drivers in danger by their excessive speed, isn’t that breaking the law? People that violate traffic signs, isn’t that also breaking the law? DAMN, WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND? Common sense tells me that robbers, tax cheaters, drunk drivers, and speed and traffic sign violators are far more dangerous to our society than a person that jumps a fence or crosses an ocean looking for a better way of life. I don’t know about anyone, but I would much rather keep illegal immigrants here than the already above mentioned everyday law breakers, I repeat, everyday law breakers.

    But for some reason, it is illegal immigrants who are constantly reminded of their status of “law breakers” and their punishment is by far more severe than the already above mentioned violators. I am not for breaking the law, but I also believe that the law should be just to all people, and that includes people that are here illegally. To try to keep laws that oppresses people is just plain wrong. There have been many social movements in the history of our country with the purpose of changing laws that did not favored minorities. So instead of picking on the defenseless, voiceless, and powerless, try to work a solution, instead of concentrating on the problem.

  8. Pro-Immigrant,

    In order to be “conflicted,” you must be weighing two different, opposing opinions. Your above post is all from one side. You, in fact, are *not* conflicted.

  9. You are indeed right Webster, thanks for the observation, I meant “frustrated” instead of “conflicted.”

  10. “I am not for breaking the law, but I also believe that the law should be just to all people, and that includes people that are here illegally.”

    As much as I understand most of your arguments here, I also don’t see you offering any solutions. Should we have an open border? Full amnesty? I don’t think you can claim you aren’t for breaking the law if you aren’t going to point out that illegal immigrants knowingly violated the laws of this country and state and should be held accountable.

    As for racism, instead of claiming that people who are anti-illegal immigration are anti-Mexican, why don’t you stick your neck out and name these people with some evidence. Otherwise, this statement is moot. I’m all for allowing far greater access to our borders, and have great appreciation for the Mexican community… but I think we need to enforce our immigration laws much more vigilantly. Does this make me a racist?

    My conflict with tomorrows protest comes from what I hope it will become: less about immigration, and more about showing to America as a whole the presence of Mexicans and Latinos who are part of our country. Because, lets face it, the protests and walkouts have less to do with immigration than Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans.

  11. Yes indeed, I will even repeat it one more time, so hold on, here it comes…. I AM NOT FOR BREAKING THE LAW, BUT I ALSO BELIEVE THAT THE LAW SHOULD BE JUST TO ALL PEOPLE, AND THAT INCLUDES PEOPLE THAT ARE HERE ILLEGALLY.

    I am aware of the fact that people that cross the border without notifying the U.S government is considered a “law breaker.” If you paid a little attention, my whole argument is based on the concept of “illegal immigrants” being targeted as the only law violators. So yes, David, I can claim my above statement of “I am not for breaking the law.

    Another thing, I never stated that people who are anti-illegal immigration are Anti-Mexican. In fact, I never mentioned the war “Anti-Mexican.” Again, pay attention before distorting my writing. What I said was “there are racist people hiding under the of ‘I am not a racist, I am only against illegal immigration'” This statement by no way labels all people that are anti-illegal immigration as being racist, or as you want to have everybody believe “Anti-Mexican”

    Another thing, when I said let’s try to find solutions, I didn’t meant for you to sarcastically ask me questions like Should we have an open border? (although I would like to remind you that the northern Canadian border which by the way was the border that terrorists used when they got into this country is in fact open, but of course you only like to talk about the southern border)Full Amnesty? That’s like me asking you questions like should we deport every single illegal immigrant out of this country? Ask constructive questions, please.

    Another thing, I never suggested that you in particular were racist, so please calm down.

    Another thing, the protests had EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IMMIGRATION, in fact the Sensennbrenner Bill, an immigration act, was what motivated these protests in the first place. I don’t know where you get this thing of the Marches being about the presence of Mexicans and Latinos in this country when there were many people from all sorts of nationalities marching (by the way Mexicans are Latinos).

    Please double check your reading before you conveniently decide to misinterpret other people’s writing, David.

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