Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest Voz - Pulitzer Prize Winner Jose Antonio Vargas: "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant"

Guest Voz - Pulitzer Prize Winner Jose Antonio Vargas: "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant" -- from the Phillipines
One August morning nearly two decades ago, my mother woke me and put me in a cab. She handed me a jacket. “Baka malamig doon” were among the few words she said. (“It might be cold there.”) When I arrived at the Philippines’ Ninoy Aquino International Airport with her, my aunt and a family friend, I was introduced to a man I’d never seen. They told me he was my uncle. He held my hand as I boarded an airplane for the first time. It was 1993, and I was 12.

My mother wanted to give me a better life, so she sent me thousands of miles away to live with her parents in America — my grandfather (Lolo in Tagalog) and grandmother (Lola). After I arrived in Mountain View, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, I entered sixth grade and quickly grew to love my new home, family and culture. I discovered a passion for language, though it was hard to learn the difference between formal English and American slang. One of my early memories is of a freckled kid in middle school asking me, “What’s up?” I replied, “The sky,” and he and a couple of other kids laughed. I won the eighth-grade spelling bee by memorizing words I couldn’t properly pronounce. (The winning word was “indefatigable.”)

One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. “This is fake,” she whispered. “Don’t come back here again.” Confused and scared, I pedaled home and confronted Lolo. I remember him sitting in the garage, cutting coupons. I dropped my bike and ran over to him, showing him the green card. “Peke ba ito?” I asked in Tagalog. (“Is this fake?”) My grandparents were naturalized American citizens — he worked as a security guard, she as a food server — and they had begun supporting my mother and me financially when I was 3, after my father’s wandering eye and inability to properly provide for us led to my parents’ separation. Lolo was a proud man, and I saw the shame on his face as he told me he purchased the card, along with other fake documents, for me. “Don’t show it to other people,” he warned. I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.

I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.
(Read his Complete Article HERE)

1 comment:

Vicente Duque said...

SALON.COM : Last Friday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a memo saying that field agents and office directors should focus on only deporting dangerous illegal immigrants, instead of just any illegal immigrants they find.

The right's real problem with immigrants
By Alex Pareene
Thursday, Jun 23, 2011

Some excerpts :

The conservative press, obviously, dubbed this a "stealth DREAM Act" and an act of "loosening the border rules for 2012." (The DREAM Act was the bill that would've allowed some minuscule number of basically perfect Americans unlucky enough to have been born elsewhere the opportunity to eventually become citizens. It failed. Repeatedly.)

That's obviously, patently absurd: The White House is still deporting more people than any previous administration and this memo only calls for some discretion in deciding whom to deport, because the nation literally cannot deport them all. ("Also on Friday, Mr. Obama extended the deployment of some 1,200 National Guard troops who are backing up immigration agents along the Southwest border." Why won't the president protect us from the Mexicans?)

But the question of whether we should allow immigration agents more discretion in deciding whether to defer or cancel deportations is not really what everyone is mad about, on the right. They're just mad at the thought that some immigrants might not get in trouble.

It's an urgent need to punish the "illegals" that animates so much anti-immigration rhetoric. It's probably related to the old conservative fear that, in Ta-Nehisi Coates' memorable formulation, somewhere, somehow, a black person is getting away with something. But the higher-brow arguments (as opposed to Lou Dobbs' rantings) aren't even particularly informed by anti-Latino sentiment: It's just people of privilege judging others for "not playing by the rules." It's a lot easier to play by the rules when you're born a winner!

As long as our immigration system remains so badly broken, just about anything an otherwise responsible undocumented American does to stay in this country seems justified to me. "Playing by the rules" is a literal impossibility for millions. The fact that an "illegal's" mere presence in her own home is a violation of the law makes it an unjust law.

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