The Dog With a Toy In Its Mouth

dog-with-bone

Listen, former President Barack Obama didn’t earn the nickname deporter-in-chief out of nowhere. But the screws are turned more tightly right now. People who never thought about immigration before are now carrying the word around like a dog with a toy in its mouth.

On the one hand, sure – more people are talking about immigration.

On the other hand, many of these people are following the ferociously bad lead of numerous U.S.- born, usually white “allies” to treat immigrants as children. And while there are a tremendous amount of kids and unaccompanied minors who arrive to the U.S. every day, this isn’t the group that I’m talking about right now.

I’m talking about adult immigrants. Who may or may not speak English. Who may or may not have any kind of papers. Who perhaps have been living here 30 years, or just one. Could be that they arrived as children, but that was a while back. Formally educated or not. With complicated immigration histories or slightly more straightforward ones.

I get the instinct, the desire that bubbles up in the throats of U.S.- born, usually white “allies.” And you want to help immigrants right now.  Or, you’ve supposedly been helping immigrants for decades and use that fact as your own street cred for what’s happening in the country right now. Either way, listen up:

There’s a big difference between providing protection for immigrants and proselytizing to immigrants. It frustrates the hell out of me that I feel the need to write those words. However, I’ve been watching and reading too many in-person interactions/news segments/emails and articles where immigrants are being lectured to/spoken at by U.S. – born “allies” as if they were seated in those little plastic chairs in a kindergarten class and the allies were the classroom teachers.

Providing protection often involves less words and more actions. It means actively listening. Especially if you’re new to this work. And it means really listening on a higher level if you think that you’ve seen it all and have nothing new to learn from this work.

What U.S.- born “allies” should not be telling immigrants unasked right now? How to act. What to feel. Where to go. What to do. What not to do. Who to talk to. Who to fear. 

What U.S. – born allies really should not be doing right now? Vomiting their own feelings about U.S. immigration onto an immigrant. You do not have carte blanche to tear up while talking to an immigrant about how terrible you feel right now. You also do not have the right to be verbally dumping on the immigrant community how much you supposedly do for those communities.

Unless you’re being asked directly by an immigrant for your professional or personal opinion, keep your mouth shut. 

These immigration traps were laid out a long time ago. I’m talking about way before the last U.S. presidential election. And many of you were out here whistling Dixie in more ways than one.

So all those feelings of guilt, fear and shock, combined with the need to infantilize immigrants and their communities? You need to deal with those emotions on your own.

Because the last thing you need to do right now is gallop over to an immigrant with a soft plush toy in your mouth.

Shuffle Ball Change

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Who gets the privilege of becoming a citizen of the United States of America: That’s a big deal. When we talk about that in the abstract, it is easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of “us” versus “them.” And when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of “us” used to be “them.” 

This was one of the moments that got a lot of play this week from President Barack Obama’s speech about the White House’s version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Those lines got me thinking about The Golden School of Dance. It was your regular run-of-the-mill dance school in the small suburban town in Long Island, New York where I grew up. I took classes there, and we had the expected dance recitals at the end of the year.

I particularly loved my tap dance lessons.

My Mom often picked me up after class. Sometimes we carpooled, and it was her turn. Or sometimes she just came to pick up her daughter.

My light brown-skinned Mom was born and raised in Mexico City. She didn’t look or sound anything like the majority of the other mothers who came to pick up their kids after class at this run-of-the-mill dance school on the North Shore of Long Island. This used to embarrass me to no end. At that time in my life, I simply didn’t have anyone else in my immediate world who had a Mexican Mom like mine.

My father, a white US-born citizen, and a New Yorker through and through, blended in easily on the rare occasions that he was able to pick me up from dance class.

So I don’t ever forget that, “most of us used to be them.” I grew up in a home of “us” and “them.” And I know that I’m certainly not the only one.

Now that I’ve been married for over ten years to another one of “them,” I’m cautious.

I’m cautious, because I know that it was a history-making moment for President Barack Obama to name the “us vs them” equation out loud. But I also know that for those of us who grew up in mixed-race homes, and/or mixed-status homes, (different immigration statuses) the “us and them” dynamic doesn’t apply.

And for the thousands, the literally thousands of the “us” that are in committed relationships with the thousands, the literally thousands of the “them,” we’re working through the full psychological, emotional, economic, political and privileged weight of our blue US passports.

And we’ll continue to work through the fact that we grew up in the very country that kept and keeps our partners out. Our families separated.

Trust me kids, I understand about messaging to the masses. I get that the White House is gunning to get this reform through with the least amount possible of mess and fuss.

I’m just thinking about my dance recitals. My parents sitting next to each other as I tap dance onstage.

And I’m wondering who in that audience the White House is now tap dancing for.

Mr. Colbert, You Can Shut Up Now

Hey peeps.

So I watched the video of Stephen Colbert testifying on Capitol Hill about immigration and AgJobs. More than once. I didn’t find it funny. You know what it felt like? A high school student doing a presentation in front of a class where they’re aiming for a good grade from the teacher, as well as snarky laughs from their classmates at the same time.

Listen, I’m not saying that you can’t be funny about immigration and AgJobs. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in Mexico it’s that you either laugh or cry about the tragic stuff in life. And laughing always wins in the end.  So nothing is sacred in my life. I’ve made more than my fair share of immigration jokes, as has my husband Picasso. Christ, he and I made deportation jokes as we were waiting to be interviewed by what ended up being a deportation officer in Chicago. Gallows humor and all that.

But what are people applauding with Colbert’s testimony on Capitol Hill? The fact that a white man picked some beans and corn? His word play?

What did Colbert really do today besides let U.S. citizens who are not directly  affected by immigration issues off the hook? U.S. citizens, particularly white citizens,  can finally laugh about the fart in the room, i.e. the tragically broken immigration system in the U.S.

Because (insert sarcastic voice here) I know that it’s so hard for them. They want to help, but their hands are tied. So Steven Colbert brings “much-needed” humor to the situation. They re-post the video, to show that they’re “pro-immigration reform.”

Muchisimas gracias.

You know, I was a professional comedy improviser way back in the day. Comedy Improv Rule #1: Make your partner look good. Comedy Improv Rule #2: Commit to the scene and your character 100%.

Colbert did neither in his testimony. The United Farm Workers (UFW) being his partner, of course. And by extension, Arturo Rodríguez, president of the UFW. And what was Colbert’s role? Concerned humanitarian? Comic commentator with a cause?

Or was it as a high school student winking his way through an oral presentation in front of the class?

For every person in the U.S. who isn’t directly affected by immigration issues and re-posts that video while applauding Colbert, I feel that it’s the equivalent of when a white person says, “I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body; as a matter of fact, I have lots of black friends!”

And his reference to gay Iowans as corn packers is reaching for the bottom of the humor barrel. Because (insert sarcastic voice here) when all else fails, throw in a gay joke!

His other reference to, “trying to get them to sing field songs” has definite associations with slavery. And when he says it, he’s looking for the laugh.

So this is the reality: Colbert’s testimony in front of Congress will go viral way before any DREAM Act videos do. I just have to look at my facebook news feed to prove that fact.

At the very end of the video, Colbert is asked why he’s interested in this issue. The first sentence to his answer:

I like talking about people who don’t have any power.

Interesting how he says “talking about” instead of “talking with

Mr. Colbert, learn to be a better ally.

First step? Think before you open your mouth.

When I Say DREAM, You Say Act

Feliz Friday, peeps.

So I’m just going to say it like this – if you’re tired of people talking about supporting the DREAM Act this week, then you’re floating in a big pool of multiple privileges.

It really could not be easier to make your voice heard. Click. Call. Then repeat. Post articles. Tweet.Talk. Read, watch and learn. Get over your fear. Work through your privilege.

Tuesday of next week, the first votes will go down in the Senate.

People’s lives are truly in the balance. Get those fingers moving.

You need a funny and awesome warm-up? Watch this:

Late August, 2010

Hey kids.

As August of 2010 comes to a close, I woke up this morning thinking about the fact that it was at some point during mid-August of 2001 that I arrived to Mexico.

The exact date of when I was reunited with R again is lost. But I know that it was August of 2001.

At the time, I was working as an executive assistant in the sales department of a relatively large company in Chicago. I was also working as a server for a caterer on weekends.

I was at the office late one night, doing something that I dreaded as an executive assistant: Putting together sales packets for an upcoming presentation for a member of the sales team.

I snapped that night. What was I doing, literally on my knees, hunched over the packets, checking them over and over again to make sure that the pages were correct?

What was I hiding from? Why wasn’t I in Mexico with R?

I had visited R in Mexico in June of 2001, over the course of a long weekend. We had a lot of extremely painful and gut-wrenching things to say to each other face-to-face.

We did that. And R invited me to come live with him in Mexico. I said yes, but I kept putting it off, citing credit card bills and wanting to save money before I left.

In my situation, I now know that it was because I was afraid to come to Mexico and face facts about myself as an individual, as well as my marriage.

Years later, R told me that when he said goodbye to me after that long weekend in June of 2001, he was sure that he was never going to see me again. Even though I said yes to his invitation to come and live with him in Mexico.

He watched me go through the gate at the Benito Juárez airport in Mexico City. When I turned to look at him, he was already walking away.

There was a tremendous amount of damage and anger between us. I don’t blame him for feeling that way. At that point, giving R my word had all of the weight of a soap bubble in a thunderstorm.

And yet, my initial hesitation about moving to Mexico never tangled with a fear of physically living in the country. My physical safety was never part of the decision-making process in 2001.

While there was always violence in Mexico, starting from way before I arrived, it is definitively different now.

And the lefty-leaning liberals in the U.S. can talk all they want about U.S. media machines churning out biased pieces that are “ruining” Mexico’s “good name.”

There’s a piece of that in this whole mess, sure.

But the fact that I no longer go outside our house by myself after dark to walk down the street to the grocery store speaks to a whole other truth as well.

Right now the common thought is that as long as you don’t play a part in the Mexico-U.S. drug drama, you will not be touched.

But my feeling today is that the safety catch on that idea is already removed.

May I be completely and totally wrong. I truly hope so.

Time will tell us, won’t it? Time will tell.

“Anchor Babies”

Hey kids.

My Mexican mom had papers when she gave birth to me in the U.S. And my Dad was born and raised in New York.

Yet, in 1970, I was one U.S. Immigration stamp away from falling into today’s shameful and humiliating 14th amendment debate.

And if R and I had kids when we were in the States, then the kid or kids would be right in the thick of it right now. I know many people who are in this situation as we speak, i.e., one or two undocumented parents in the U.S.

And what if R and I have kids in the future? What if we adopt? What if R never enters the U.S. again? What does that mean in today’s political sphere?

You know, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I felt very much alone when R was deported in April of 2001.

But you know what? I think that at this point I’d take the loneliness any day over the what’s happening in the U.S. now.

Today in 2010 I have a community. Today in 2010 I connect with more and more people that understand what I’ve lived through/am living through/will continue to live through.

And yet today in 2010, I feel a fear and a rage that I never could have imagined in 2001.

There’s a question that I ask at the end of my show, The Deportee’s Wife about R possibly not being allowed to enter other countries in the future, due to their political relationship in the U.S. (As was the case with him and Canada in 2007.)

And I ask if one day I may not be allowed to enter the U.S., Canada or any other country because I’m R’s legal wife.

Will those words come true during my lifetime? Jesus.

Today in 2010, unspeakable and unimaginable issues are slaughtered and slapped onto the U.S. political table, the blood still warm.

It almost makes me long for April of 2001. Almost.

SB1070 and Mexico

Hey peeps.

Its been weird watching the SB1070 news here in Mexico. One Mexican politician after another has come forward all swagger and bravado about the parts that were killed in the bill.

So these men in ties rumble into the microphones. But on the whole, there’s no accountability for Mexico’s economy. An economy that’s as thin and fragile as the last potato chip in the bottom of the bag.

There’s no talk of the intersectionality of the issues. There’s no talk about the correlation between the numbers of undocumented Mexican immigrants and the Mexican off-key melody that forces them to dance across danger to the U.S.

And of course, there’s no talk about the racial profiling that exists here in Mexico. That someone with darker skin like my husband gets followed by security in a department store like Sanborn’s.

So weird is the word when I watch the dirge-like progression of the events around SB1070 from here in the Global South.

Because the Mexican government’s official reaction to SB1070 feels and looks like a cheap suit.

Señores, your seams are showing.