I sit in court a lot, most mornings that’s where you’ll find me, sitting in a courtroom. While I wait, I online shop, check the news, Facebook stalk people who were mean to me growing up–realize they were actually all terrible even at 8 years old because as adults they all voted for trump. It’s all a distraction. It distracts me from focusing on the fact I have to get up there and be better. Just in general I have to be better. Better prepared than the other attorney, know more facts than the other attorney, write down the new deadlines faster than the other attorney, etc. Why? Because sometimes judges think I’m an interpreter and ask me to interpret for pro se parties in a courtroom full of my colleagues. I do it willingly, every time The people I interpret for remind me of my parents, my aunts, uncles, and my friends’ parents. The ones that know more English than they think but get really nervous when they’re put on the spot. The ones who want to make sure they don’t miss one word in a legal proceeding because it could mean the difference between OK and oh fuck. They trust me, I’m brown like them, my Mexican accent is comforting and they see their kids in me, they see what the kid of an immigrant can be.
My parents are immigrants, they came here undocumented and remained so for a really long time. So long so, that I remember going to their citizenship ceremony and reciting the pledge of allegiance with a picture of Bill Clinton hanging on the wall. I had to miss school that day and I went back thinking I too had become an American Citizen at that ceremony. I proceeded to tell all my 2nd grade classmates how cool it was. Some of them started to call me an illegal alien. At parent-teacher conferences my teachers asked my mom if she was lying about my social security number when she enrolled me. My mom had to explain to them that I was a citizen, but the ceremony was so important to them that they brought us with to witness it–also they couldn’t be sure they would be home before we got home from school. As an adult I know now that schools are not allowed to ask a child’s immigration status. My parents, although now documented, are still immigrants. But they’re parents and they’re people and they’re human.
They aren’t doctors or biochemical engineers who are working on the most forefront research on the cure for pediatric cancer, they’re just humans. They’re two people who have run a small business for over 30 years. But they still deserve to be treated as humans. We all do. Not every immigrant, documented or undocumented, is going to be a doctor or a the next Harriet Tubman but they still deserve human rights. My parents are luckier than most, they get to point to my brother and me, and our accomplishments to bolster the undocumented immigrant narrative, like, “look at what we can contribute to society if you let us in!” But they shouldn’t have to, sometimes just existing in this country as an immigrant is hard enough.
A lot of people think that immigrants come to this country to take advantage of what the US has to offer. To that I say, “TRUE TRUE.” BUT there are two things you’re missing: 1. people wouldn’t leave their countries if the US didn’t go in and colonize the fuck out of places, 2. these people leave EVERYTHING behind, EVERYTHING. My parents told me, like most other undocumented immigrants I know, that when they came here they left with the clothes on their back….THAT’S IT. The clothes on their backs. They left family, homes, jobs, security, etc., because there was more opportunity here. Or at least the prospect for more opportunities. Whatever it was, the idea that they could improve themselves was worth leaving behind their entire lives. Not because they wanted to but because they HAD to. I don’t think I have to go into the extensive history of the United States and its colonization of Mexico–Hi Texas!–or the entire maquiladora systems they set up in countries all around the world but long story short, the opportunities aren’t there. And NO it’s not all the US’s fault, these countries’ governments have played a role, but when your fighting for survival, everyone is fighting for survival and there wouldn’t be a fight for survival if there wasn’t a trigger, *cough cough* US colonization.
But immigrants come here and for the most part they just try to exist. They work, they pay taxes, they are friends, neighbors, property owners, fathers, mothers, children AND SOMETIMES they produce children or they themselves are impeccably, outstandingly smart and accomplished and are about to change the world. But mostly, they just try to exist, like you and me. And I think it’s time to stop seeing immigrants as worthy because they are doctors or engineers or overly accomplished in any other area. Immigrants are worthy just because they exist here. Period.
I don’t know one person who has or had the courage to get up and leave their entire life behind to take a chance in a country that has a force whose sole purpose is to remove them from it. I lied. I do know people like that, they’re all immigrants, they all came here undocumented and they’re all here EXISTING. And they are just as worthy of a reason to reform this broken system as Malala, Justino Mora of Undocumedia , and every immigrant engineer and doctor whose story I see on my Facebook feed.
So I’m done. I’m done with having to push the stories of the top 1% of undocumented immigrants to convince people that fixing this system is necessary. From now on, I’m pushing the majority. The men and women, or however they identify, that are working in the back of the restaurant, cleaning our homes, fixing our shit, working tirelessly to put their kids through school all while not having seen their parents since they left their home countries. Those are the stories I’m pushing, because that is worthy that is necessary.
I never asked my parents what their dreams were when they were kids but they always told me the only thing they ever wanted was for me to have more than them, to have it easier than them. I’ll always remember my dad telling me, when he grew up all he wanted was a house with walls and a real floor. His favorite thing about our house is our hardwood floors, he always told me he dreamed to have the house he lives in now, to him that is a mansion compared to where he came from. He just hoped that he was able to put me in a position where one day I could have better, that I could have more. And every immigrant parent I’ve ever met, from doctors to service workers, their goals are the same: to give their children more opportunity than they had. And that, that makes them worthy.
So the next time you’re thinking about whether the Democrats should let the government shut down because the Republicans refuse to pass a clean DREAM Act or reform this broken immigration system, think of these immigrants. They have the same goals as you. The have the same aspirations for the future as you. They are just as worthy, as you.