There is a song that has been popular for a few years among people without Social Security Numbers and Work Permits: “El Mojado” this video has an English translation and at about 1:50 into the song the title of this post occurs, -“The Undocumented One Carries a Load the “Legal” one could not carry even if obligated.” (the above has English Subtitles) the following is the official video) I’ve written the following to help us “legal” ones get a small glimpse into the burdens that Undocumented Immigrants carry daily. Hopefully you will see why Comprehensive Immigration Reform is needed NOW – for well over a decade families have lived in limbo, working significant jobs that support our national economy, while also being constantly shamed and blamed for not doing what there is no pathway to do; “getting legal status.” Regardless of popular opinion, these are brave people who left behind dear family and friends in order to escape the opportunity vacuum that existed in their home country. Mass Migration never occurs without profound social and structural reasons which cause people to forsake the normal security of home for the risks of the unknown. For the propose of these articles I will respectfully refer to these persons as UDP (undocumented persons).
It’s in the subtle comments. It’s in the discrete actions. Courageous people do not speak casually about fear. While courage can help you face the ever-present social negativity and daily uncertainties that brood over head, it cannot make them go away. Few of the UDP I know would ever admit to fearing for themselves. If that was the case, chances are they would never have made the journey to the USA in the first place. Their fear is for their family. Last month I was at a child’s birthday party with my friend, his wife, and two small children. They were both smiling as they told me how when his wife learned about an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raid at their apartment building, she immediately called her husband at work to make sure he was ok. He laughingly said, “She called me over 20 times in a row, but I was working on a machine and couldn’t hear my phone” She smiled sheepishly, “I just wanted to make sure he didn’t get picked-up” Every UDP knows that any given day it could happen to them. Everyone knows of someone who went to work and never came home, or went to the store not to see their kids again. Last year I was helping lead a class and a mother shared, “I feel bad I don’t visit my child’s school, but I try not to go out at night it is just to risky.” When a simple police stop or a small accident can lead to family separation, people stop doing the basic’s that can help hold their family together.
Last week a UDP, a friend, called, “Is there a new law that you have to show a green card to buy cigarettes?” I assured him no, but he explained to me how at the Super America a young white guy told him he needed to show a green card, in addition to his Minnesota ID. My friend demanded to talk to the manager, “.. that manager was a brain-washed Latino and he told me it’s a new law Obama passed, so I just left.” I later stopped by that SA to talk to the manager and they assured me it was a training issue. Yet this story is just one of many demonstrating how UDP struggle to know who they can trust. When language and power are both to your disadvantage, when there is so much in the media that paints YOU as a problem, people begin to question themselves and become unsure as to who can be trusted. This past year I met a man who wanted his son, a sophomore in a prestigious Minneapolis private school, to understand the truth of his Immigration status. He was not born in the USA, and had been brought across the Rio Grande on the back of his father as a three year old, he needed to apply for “deferred action” so that he could pursue higher education and be safe from the threat of deportation. His skate-boarding, tight jean wearing, no accent-English-speaking, son had no idea he was a UDP; or as some say undocumented or illegal. His father told me, “…we were waiting for the right time to tell him, as a little child we didn’t tell him, because we were afraid he might tell the wrong people, and now we were just waiting, we didn’t want to worry him with bad news when there is nothing he could have done.” It was exciting to see this young man and father finally connect in the truth, knowing there was hope for his future. However without Comprehensive Immigration reform his father and mother are still stuck in the status limbo with no real escape. A healthy society cannot be built without security and trust, yet the undocumented, the UDP, have had to survive in this no-mans-land waiting for politics to catch up with social realities while the self-righteous attack the reality of millions of immigrants by pontificating about choices they have never had to make. Contact Congress and demand they follow the wishes of US citizens and vote for Immigration Reform before this session ends! Next we will consider the issues of Vulnerability and Separation.