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.

Never Thought I’d Write Those Words

Source: sitins.com
Source: sitins.com

I was hoping against hope that I wouldn’t have to write this post. Even this tough old bird held her breath. It is two weeks today.

I knew and understood that the actions of Marco Saavedra, Lulú Martínez, Lizbeth Mateo, Luis Leon, Cerefino Santiago, Maria Peniche, Adriana Gil Diaz, Claudia Amaro and Mario Felix risked their lives and their bodies. 

However, what I never thought I’d write about the DREAM 9?

People directly involved with DREAM 9 getting fired from their jobs or attempts to get them pushed out. Threats on their lives. Attempts to drag those same people’s names through the mud. 

And who has been at the forefront of these firings, threats, and mud dragging?

Neo-Nazis? No.

Minutemen at the border? No.

Congressman Steve King from Iowa? No.

Immigration lawyers. 

Yep, you read that correctly. Never thought I’d write those words.

Some – not all – but some of the very same people who are supposedly working within our community are promoting this violence and destruction around DREAM 9.

While Mr. Vulcan and myself always talk politics, social movements and history, we’ve been talking more lately about The Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the Greensboro Sit-Ins with relation to DREAM 9.

From the Montgomery Bus Boycott site:

…Unlike those earlier incidents, Rosa Parks’s courageous refusal to bow to an unfair law sparked a crucial chapter in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. ,”I didn’t get on the bus with the intention of being arrested,” she often said later. “I got on the bus with the intention of going home.”

From the Greensboro Sit-Ins site:

…At long last after decades of acceptance, four freshman students at North Carolina A&T went into Woolworth and at the lunch counter they “sat-in.” When told they would not be served, they refused to leave and this sparked a movement throughout the South. Black students in colleges throughout the South saw it on television they said “Hey man, look at what our brothers and sisters in Greensboro are doing. What’s wrong with us? Why don’t we go out and do the same thing?” And they went out, so it swept across the South like the proverbial wildfire, with students rejecting segregation. With their very bodies they obstructed the wheels of injustice.

I want every immigration lawyer who is firing people, threatening lives and conducting smear campaigns to think long and hard about where we’d be today as a country without the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the Greensboro Sit-Ins.

And do us all a favor?

Get the fuck out of your profession.

Shuffle Ball Change

Image

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.