Okay, so, apparently we need to talk about immigration, and we need to do it now. Most Americans have an opinion about it, but the truth is most people remain uneducated on the subject because only a small percentage of the population are registered aliens or have experienced the immigration process in their lifetimes (legally or otherwise). The United States of America, however, is technically made up of immigrants. This fact should never be suppressed or forgotten. Ever heard of a thing called thanksgiving? You know, the holiday Americans use to celebrate the first wave of immigration? You know, the guys that killed all the Native Americans and introduced them to smallpox? Your great-great-great-grandparents, yeah! Now, imagine if modern immigrants rounded up and killed all the Americans that are already here so that they could move in and stay and then institutionalized a holiday to celebrate such accomplishment? Literally what kind of despicable people would do that? So, let’s get down to it. Let’s get real for a minute and discuss all the uncomfortable truths about this issue. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I am a college-educated immigrant actively pursuing citizenship and the right to vote. Those are my credentials.
Update: I became a citizen of the United States of America in July 2014 and voted for the first time in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Immigration is not an easy subject to talk about because there are many components to it. Additionally, everyone’s story is different. Not everyone who is an immigrant is illegal (In fact, 2 out 3 immigrants in the US have papers). Immigrants come from all over the world, not just Mexico and Latin America. Some immigrants will clean properties and collect produce because their choices are limited, but some of them go to college and try to build respectable careers when the resources are available. Some people move to the United States searching for financial success. Others are fleeing the staggering problems of their native countries, such as violent wars and food shortages. Some people just want a chance at not dying. But even though this might be our truth, political discussion seems to only revolve around the myths about immigrants. Let’s discuss my two favorite ones:
1. “Immigrants are taking our jobs!”
First of all, I don’t know a lot of people who enjoy cleaning for someone else, picking produce for pennies an hour, taking care of their own children, mowing lawns or stacking boxes at warehouses. Do you really want those jobs back? Are you dying to be a maid? Then just do it. Submit your resume and do it. I’m sure someone will hire you. Now, if you’re talking about “real” jobs like office jobs and such. Have you ever considered that maybe those people are better qualified than you? Like with a more “prestigious” college degree and better resume? Did it ever occur to you that those people might have brains full of thoughts and ideas worth sharing? Or are you just upset because you didn’t have privilege on your side? Get out of here. You’re the real problem.
2. “Immigrants are getting a free ride on our tax dollars aka hurting the economy”
This is only part true. And I hate that, but let me explain. Most illegal immigrants don’t pay income taxes because they don’t have a social security number, but the ones that do pay those taxes will never see the benefits. Most illegal immigrants don’t pay property taxes because it’s impossible for them to be homeowners, but their monthly rents are definitely taxed. Now, remember how we said these people make pennies an hour? How can you expect them to pay even more money to a government that isn’t even on their side? Being a person who is alive, however, requires you to buy things, like gas and clothing. Those things have sales taxes (8.25% in Texas). They have to pay that. But you know who really doesn’t pay taxes? Mitt Romney. He has overseas bank accounts just for that purpose. A lot of rich people in this country do that. And you know who also doesn’t pay taxes? Corporations. Some of them destroy the world and make you fat and poor. And you know who also doesn’t pay taxes? Churches. The Westboro Baptist Church uses their tax cuts to spread fear and hate. But we’re not making any laws against them. No. See, they contribute to America’s cultural diversity and financial stability in ways that us mere mortals just don’t understand.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are the legal aliens, like me! My family has paid income and property taxes for 10 years now. I got my working permit in 2008 and began paying income taxes as well. We basically pay just as much in taxes as your average American, but we can’t vote. Kindly gtfo with your generalizations.
The Dark Side of Immigration
I’m aware that immigration does have a dark side. See how I’m not biased? My mom works at a public school in South Texas, right next to the border. I think she has real illegal students (not sure). She talks about how some of these kids waste her time and aren’t really interested in getting an education. They’re fed breakfast and lunch on tax dollars but don’t really give a shit about bettering their future. It’s sad and heartbreaking, but also true. The thing though is we don’t really know their back-stories. Some of them have deported, imprisoned or dead parents. Some of them unfortunately are actually surrounded by drugs and violence and no access to resources outside of campus. These kids, however, are not criminals. They may need specialized care, but they are not lost cases. The actual problems stem from our flawed education system and immigration policies, laws that were written by American citizens in Congress, not the kids who are trying to not die! Also, who targets children?
Being an immigrant means being and feeling different from everyone else almost all the time. A lot of people ask me where I’m from and become fascinated with my fluency and literacy, like it’s something that isn’t supposed to happen. “OMG you sound very American!” they say, smiling. “You don’t look like all the other Mexicans.” My response to that? “fuck off.” I’m not consciously trying to erase my culture, I’m trying really hard to make it easier for you to relate to me. My English sounds the way it sounds because I’ve lived in the U.S. for over 10 years, and I’ve studied the language ever since I was in kindergarten. I also went to a university and got a degree, so if I sound educated it’s because I am, and I worked really damn hard at it. I look the way I look because I like fashion and live a certain lifestyle, not because I’m different or better than other Mexicans. I just want the papers. I want the same rights as you. I want to vote for our elected officials. I want to not be randomly selected for inspection when I cross the border. I want to feel like I belong.
I almost prefer not telling people about my immigration status. There is always a switch when I do. People treat me differently. People know it’s hard for us out there, but they don’t truly get it. It’s almost impossible to escape this identity. So I embrace it as much as I can and I write blogs about immigration because I’m probably expected to do so. Because somehow it is my duty to educate the uneducated. Because this is my destiny? I do believe that we need to continue having an open dialogue about immigration, particularly in college campuses. That’s where the “future leaders of America” are supposed to be. Even though most of them will end up working shitty underpaid jobs during their most productive years, it’s important that they learn not to be idiots and vote for the right changes to our current system.