As in the previous post, I want to begin with a song that has been popular for a few years among people without Social Security Numbers and Work Permits: “El Mojado” this link is to a video with an English translation, 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 image links to 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
The Burden of Undocumentation
As congress reconvenes, there are many issues to tackle, however I am part of a movement that will demand that Immigration Reform cannot wait for another election cycle. Families are being torn apart lives are being decimated while politicians and pundits play the polls with sound bites for personal positioning. For 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 really no pathway to do; “getting legal status.”
Regardless of popular opinion, undocumented immigrants 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. In the previous article I wrote of how undocumented immigrants live with fear and mistrust, this post will explore other ways in which their lives are compromised because congress has refused to act for so long. For the propose of these blog articles I will respectfully refer to these persons as UDP (Undocumented Persons)
Fear and mistrust open the door to this third impediment. Last week I had a conversation with a man who told me how he had been robbed 3 times in Minneapolis, the last time the thief told him, “and I know you can’t call the police, ‘cuz you don’t want to be deported.” Even though this is untrue in Minneapolis (we are a “Sanctuary City”) many UDP believe that they have no recourse if they are lied to, robbed or extorted. Frequently private sub-contractors call me to help them get paid as the general contractor is refusing to pay what they promised, presuming that since the person is undocumented they have little or no legal recourse. A family in south Minneapolis told of how they put up with extortion from loud, abusive, criminal neighbors because the neighbors threatened to call ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) if they were to call the police on them.
In additionally UDP are vulnerable to depression. Last year, as I was preparing a grant proposal I called a local clinic, which serves predominately UDP. The clinic sees 1000’s of patients each year, their records show that close to 80% of their patients, who come for everything from the flu to prenatal care, reported having an extended period of depression in the past year. No surprise when one considers the “burden the undocumented carries”
Every time I make a simple trip to visit family, every time a take a vacation and visit another country I realize I am enjoying an experience many UDP cannot do with ease. Their familial ties or no less significant than mine, yet their desire to help family over the long run supersedes their desire to be with them in the short term.
Prior to 2001, UDP would make the trip back to their homes in Mexico and other Latin American Countries yearly, or as needed, Increased border security since, has made the journey both more expensive and dangerous. The result is that people are choosing just to remain in the USA without these occasional visits, The following, true yet also representative, make my heart both hurt and swell with pride at the same time:
There is a young professor of bio-chemical engineering in Arizona who was able to earn her PhD. because her brothers have been here in Minneapolis cooking food and cleaning buildings for the last 15 years, About 5 years ago, (when she had her student visa) she was able to make her first trip to Minneapolis to visit her older brothers, Now she is able to visit frequently but over 10 years of separation passed before they could be face to face.
A friend, and sub-contractor returned from a break looking very troubled. He began to work and then broke down in tears, he told me that he had just received word that his brother had been killed in Mexico. He initially said that he wanted to return to be with his family, which makes complete sense. However over the next 2 days his friends, other UDP, reminded him that he is of “no real good to the family if he goes there, but only if you stay can you continue to help and support them through this tragedy.” He took a few days off with pay, spent time with the family via Skype and sent money home to pay for the funeral and family expenses.
A little over a year ago I visited a small village in Southern Mexico. The primary income of the area is from fishing, coconuts, and sun-dried sea-salt. I had an amazing time, yet I was somewhat self-conscious of the welcome I received. In a sense, I was there as their son, vicariously, as he has not been with them since he left 15 years ago. As I visited friends and family in the village I became aware that there were very few men of working age there. Every person we met told me of sons, husbands, fathers, and a few daughters who had made that dangerous journey north. While there was a sorrow that their family members were gone, there was also a deep sense of respect and gratitude knowing that their going away helped make things better for everyone back home. People would show us mementos, as well as houses, cars and cattle that had been purchased with the “dinero del otro lado” (money from the other side).
As I left, I felt an immense grief for my friend and his family. His mother and grandmother embraced me long and lovingly, perhaps in an attempt to send some of that physical contact back to their son through me. I grieved as well for all the others who had left this beautiful, yet financially impoverished, village and had never returned. I grieved for the families separated, yet today I remain grieved that I am part of a nation that greedily benefits from the labor of the workers from this community, while refusing to honor their contribution to our society and create a just system that would allow them the basic human right to visit family while also participating in the global economy as best as they can.
In addition to separation across the border, there are the over 30,000 immigrant detained daily within county jails and ICE facilities. Most of these persons are non-violent, and this bloated detention system cost US tax payers over $5 million each day. Earlier this summer I helped a family retrieve their father from ICE detention. He had been arrested because, “he looked like someone else.” However, since he is an UDP he was detained and charged. His family was fortunate, from their savings and support of their community they were able to post the $15,000 cash bail. However many UDP do not have the means and so they spend months in detention awaiting deportation.
After my previous post on this topic a young man, who was a classmate with my daughter Morgan, wrote to me on Facebook;
“.. Very very true!! [its good too,] that the blog that talks about the “Dreamers” I’m actually one of those students that were brought here when I was little! It makes me happy when people take their time to let others know such an important theme like an Immigration Reform or The Dreamers because others don’t give much importance to such an important thing that is happening in this country. thanks man, you’re making 11 million voices of undocumented people be heard through your blog!
Please share this post, call congress, and spread the word. Help the voices of 11 million people be heard!
Immigration Reform Cannot Wait –