"I decided to do this action because I am tired of hiding in the shadows and being afraid. I want to let people know that I am undocumented and unafraid. I hope that with this action all undocumented people will overcome their fear and come out of the shadows like I have. We are human beings and we must be treated as such."—Lupe Pimentel, 18 years old, one of five undocumented students arrested yesterday in the office of my garbage governor, Mitch Daniels (R-Eprehensible).
The students were there to ask Daniels to veto HB1402 and SB590, which would "not only deny an education to undocumented youth, but also criminalize the immigrant community" in Indiana.
In a very real way, Iain and I are the people with whom the anti-immigration rhetoric should most resonate. We live in an economically depressed area with a not insignificant Mexican immigrant population, many of whose families have been here for generations and many of whom are recent undocumented arrivals. Iain is a legal immigrant whose citizenship was secured through a time-consuming and costly process; he had to wait several months for a work permit after arriving; he had difficulty finding work in this area; I had difficulty finding work in this area when I still did office work; we have friends who have had difficulty finding work in this area. We're supposed to take the scapegoating bait and be irate, or feel cheated, or something.
And we do—but our ire is not directed at the undocumented immigrants who live in our community. It's directed squarely at our jackass governor and his conservative cronies running the state (into the ground), who discourage businesses from opening their doors in our state by making the state hostile to female and LGBTQI employers and employees, just for a start, for abandoning one of the state's richest urban centers, for fucking the state infrastructure via defunding and privatization, and generally turning Indiana into a place where, to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, anyone with any sense escapes at their earliest opportunity.
(Insert your own jokes here about what that says about a person who escapes at 18 only to voluntarily return 10 years later.)
The fact is, there's plenty of room for me to have a job along with my community's undocumented workers—which, I admit, is easier for me to say since we're not competing for the same job. But most US workers aren't competing for the same jobs generally held by undocumented immigrants, and not because they're "jobs no American wants to do," as John McCain would have us believe, but because the employers actively seek out an exploitable workforce comprised of people who don't know their rights and who can be easily controlled via the threat of deportation, a category out of which most US workers would self-select in favor healthcare benefits and livable wages, even if the crummy employers who exploit migrants would consider hiring citizens in the first place.
Iain came to the States not because his life was dreadful or his family was starving or because he couldn't find work. He came on a fiancée visa (a resource, btw, still only available to us because we're straight) because he fell in love with an American. He had the great fortune of being born in a country with lots of opportunity, and moving to one with the same. He doesn't need to be here to survive—and yet he is routinely regarded as "deserving" to be here specifically because of the fact that he was privileged in the first place.
At the center of the immigration debate in Indiana, and in the US, is a profound lack of generosity, a stinginess and smallness that sneers at the straw-immigrants who are just here to TAKE and contribute nothing in return—which doesn't sound like any of the immigrants I know (undocumented or otherwise), but does sound a hell of a lot like some of the white Hoosier families I knew growing up in which the ultimate career achievement was successfully conning disability payments out of the government. Which itself, by the way, is a lot less horrible than it sounds when you take stock of the available opportunities for poor folks with a shitty public school education in a state which hasn't had a manufacturing base in a generation.
Anyway, a big part of Iain's vision of America was this beautiful mosaic of cultures, and he couldn't wait to find out what his experience of and in that mosaic might be. We talked about it as we took that flight together over the ocean that once separated us, clutching hands and chattering excitedly, after an Arab-American man was nice enough to switch seats with me since Iain and I were in different rows. The first place he stayed after arriving on American shores was with an old friend of mine who's Native American. Our first neighbors when we moved back to Indiana were an African-American single mom with two sons on one side, and a Latino couple on the other. His first boss at his current job was an African-American Christian woman; his last boss was an Indian Muslim man; his current boss is a Jewish Hoosier man. He's just a ginger-haired Scotsman who's woven himself into the colorful fabric that existed long before he got here—and he likes that about the US. I like that about the US, too.
Just three generations ago, my family spoke with the same accent he's in the process of losing, after all.
Demonizing people who are our neighbors as somehow less American because of geography and law doesn't resonate with people like us. Being "American" is more than that, and sometimes the people who weren't born here seem to understand that better than many of those who were.
I am a Hoosier, first by birth and then by choice—and I do not support my state government's attack on undocumented residents of this state.
Please sign the petition asking Governor Daniels to veto HB1402 and SB590, and to stop arresting students and instead give them an education, here.
[H/T to Shaker ahoritagordita. Related Reading: Within Our Souls.]