A couple of my childhood neighbors have grown up to be writers. Today I’d like to share one of my childhood neighbor’s work. Aidan Martinez recently contributed this insightful piece to Arcadia Political Magazine. The magazine was started last month at Wesleyan University. The piece discusses immigration issues in El Paso and Ciudad, Juarez and the impact it holds on his family, politics…and human lives. Check out their work at: http://www.wesarcadia.com/
Whose Country Is It Anyway? The Border, DREAMers, and the Idealized American
By Aidan Martinez
Remember when you were taught that America is a “melting pot” in elementary school? Our country was built by immigrants, for immigrants. Everyone who came to America knew that they had a fighting chance to succeed. The political rhetoric of today, however, has shifted away from that original narrative. Immigrants are not seen as valuable citizens who contribute to society but instead as “takers.” The rebirth of xenophobia has been championed by the Tea Party, which is trying to limit what defines a real American. In reality, what makes our country so great is the fact that there is no defined “American.” We must go beyond the narrative we are told by politicians to get down to the truth: immigrants just want a chance—the same chance that many U.S. citizens’ ancestors received.
All nine of my aunts and uncles were “anchor babies.” My grandparents would come to the United States, have their child, and go back to Mexico. They eventually settled in the U.S. when my father was born, number ten, and my grandparents would be able to become residents due to their children’s status. Anchor babies were never discussed at the level of political discourse that they have reached today. Democrats tried their hardest in 2010 to prevent young immigrants from becoming political pawns with the Development, Relief,and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Although my aunts, uncles, and father are not DREAMers, they could have been ripped away from my grandparents at anytime. The act would have given children, who were not born in the U.S. but were brought here illegally at a young age, an opportunity to grow up in the only country they knew. The bill passed the house with a vote of 216-198 but failed to break cloture in the senate with a split of 52-44. Immigrants, both young and old, started to be labeled as “takers.” Anyone from the border who understands the local economy will tell you that immigrants or visitors from Mexico are not takers but are in fact necessary.
I’m from El Paso, Texas, a city that shares the largest international metropolitan area with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Our economies were once intertwined due to the ease of crossing the border. The Drug War had turned Ciudad Juarez into a hostile place, in which even Mexican citizens feared for their lives. They fled their country and came to America, bringing their businesses with them and saving El Paso from the worst of the Great Recession. No one talks about that. What people do talk about is how on March 11, 2010, the mayor of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, received the head of a pig as a threat. Politicians like Rick Perry made comments such as,“bullets [are] hitting the city hall in El Paso,” and,“bombs [are] exploding in El Paso.” It painted the border as a terrifying place and it fueled the nation’s reckless behavior of building a useless fence. It labeled immigrants as evil and scared Americans. I applaud President Barack Obama for his executive immigration action. He took the reigns of a narrative spiraling out of control and attempted to redefine what the word “immigrant” actually means. Immigration is truly about letting families who want a fighting chance into our country and barring criminals from entering. The only difference between a child born within our borders and one born outside is the amount of opportunity the former has. How can we have a statue that tells us to “give us their poor” when we reject them without a second thought? The path to citizenship that immigrants need does not exist because the politicians who are in power have no incentive to create it.
By 2020, Latinos are projected to rise to 40.5% of the Texas population, closing the gap with whites who will stand at 41.1%. This population shift would be disastrous for Republicans since Latinos tend to vote Democrat. A new,diverse Texas could result in a purple electoral state instead of a deep red one. When Democrats own California, Texas, and New York, it’s game over. The talking points on immigration are not about waiting in line to become an American but rather who deserves to be an American.
We have no right to say who deserves to be an American and who does not. Whoever is willing to put in the work and contribute to our country deserves the right to be an American citizen. It is up to us, as citizens, to ignore the toxic dialogue used to demonize immigrants and to realize that we are a country founded by immigrants for immigrants. Sure, not as many immigrants are fleeing religious persecution as was once the case, but they are still fleeing for their lives. Above all, they are fleeing for their children’s lives. Immigration is only politicized because the balance of power is on the line. We must look beyond what Republicans and Democrats say about immigration and look at the facts: human lives are on the line.