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.
This is true. My fiancé is Jewish and I’m said to have a little bit of Jewish blood in me. I plan on doing a DNA test in the future. What has your overall experience been like in Britain? I went to London some years back. I’m sure it’s much different moving to another country as opposed to just visiting. Thank you for your comment and for stopping by my blog 🙂
For all its rhetoric about being a country of immigrants, the US has a long history of being hostile to the latest wave of immigrants. It’s only in hindsight that it welcomes them. Each wave has been treated with hostility and suspicion–and exploited. And don’t even get me started on slavery–that forced immigration policy.
I’m the granddaughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants and, oddly enough, now an immigrant myself, living in Britain. It’s given me a deeper respect for what immigrants faced when they left their old lives behind to build new ones in a country they didn’t know and which didn’t welcome them.
Thank you all for the comments. I have to agree with a good portion of Aidan’s piece. El Paso and the world thrive on what immigrants bring/brought to the U.S. and other countries. Mexican citizens/immigrants tremendously help El Paso’s economy. Many are business owners here. They come and spend their money here too. He’s right when he writes about this not really being in the media. There’s a lot of good points in this essay. Politics isn’t something I typically dabble in but this was an exception.
Since more families have been broken up, more immigrants deported, under Obama’s administration than any other, I don’t applaud him. He’s escalated the Drug War and just made things worse. In fact, at times, I don’t even think he’s a Democrat.
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I don’t know whether people demonize immigrants in face-to-face interchanges with them; I’ve never actually seen an incidence of this yet. What political pressure groups say and what people, even those who belong to the Tea Party, actually think about other people are two different beasts. Although the “melting pot” nation of immigrants vision necessarily had numbered days once the frontier closed up in the early 20th century. Oddly, we force competition and comparative advantage with respect to trade goods by opening borders to trade, but not with respect to human resources by opening them to labor. Countries would have to work to rationalize their standards of welfare if they had to compete to keep their citizens resident. But they don’t, and I doubt such a world is in the cards.
Meaning that demographic balances remain important. Most of today’s countries, including India, China, the U.S., and Mexico, are multiethnic states and it is true that each ethnic group pursues its own agenda. Each of these countries solves the resulting problems in a different way, but all of them have a dominant group upon whose security of power the stability of that country depends. India, which has 26 official languages, is probably the most extreme example of this dynamic, though it has kept democratic forms in place for 70 years in spite of it.
I take it the rise in population and closing of frontiers is probably what drives the increased importance of immigration issues in politics; as this debate is also happening in Europe and with the internal migrations of ethnic group members in India and China.
If people would look back at the history of the United States they would see that at different times in our history different groups were demonized and portrayed as bringing the country to ruin. It was the Irish or Italians or the Chinese or the Germans or the Poles or the Japanese etc., etc.
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