Yesterday I was really thinking about the immigrant population. The people who own the Package Store in Little 5 Points are Asian. (Chinese or Korean? Not sure.) Seeing them makes me think “Of course Asians would invest in a liquor store in this neighborhood. It’s a steady business.” And it finally hit me that, other than Mexicans, Asians make up a decent number of illegal immigrants in this country. Does this occur to everyone else? Have I just completely missed that these past few years?
My dad is first generation Chinese American. In the car ride home today we talked about my decision to move to Atlanta – how scared I am because I don’t know anyone, don’t have connections, don’t have a job – and he started telling his dad’s story. My grandfather came to the United States when he was 12 years old. His parents bought him a name and social security number and sent him by himself. Both he and his parents knew that they would never see each other again. Occasionally they might write, and if they’re lucky, a phone call. But at 12 years old, he had to accept that he would never see his parents again, and his parents had to have faith that he would live a better life in the US.
Fast forward to the future to me, the second generation of this family. This is one of the reasons behind my tattoo. I have a responsibility to be the best person I can. I have to reach for the stars and work hard and believe in myself and live up to the greatness of my name. I believe I feel these responsibilities because my family’s struggle to come here is so tangible. I’ll admit that I feel less connected with my mom’s family because they’ve been here for generations. I have no sense of her history. But because I knew my grandfather and my grandmother, both of whom left their families for a better life, and saw their struggles, I feel more connected to their cause. I live a great life now, and I’d argue probably better than most. Every day I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made, and the obstacles their parents encountered.
For anyone out there who thinks that immigrants can’t/don’t/won’t contribute to America, you’re wrong. You’re completely wrong. If anything, those who can trace their heritage all the way back to the Mayflower are the most out of touch with what this country is about. My grandfather cheated the system to create a life in America. My grandmother memorized the sounds of the questions and answers to the citizenship test, which I’m sure most natural-born citizens couldn’t even pass. My grandfather worked every day of his life in America until he went to the hospital. Though my grandmother never learned English, she raised two brilliant children and worked until she couldn’t.
Those who witness the struggles or bear the burdens of freshly immigrating here are the ones who bleed the brightest, most American red blood.
I’ve been following this thread on Change.org about an undocumented student and her experience in the United States. The post is in honor of the DREAM act week of action. I’ve talked about my own complicated views on immigration law and immigrant rights, and this thread is just a continuation.
The question in this thread seems to be about the law and the money. It’s sad that we can’t seem to have a discussion about basic human rights without talking about economics and taxes. I get it. While Andrea’s family paid taxes, I’m sure there are plenty of illegal families who don’t. And I hear the argument “Why don’t they become citizens?”, which is another point I used to agree with.
How easy is it to acquire citizenship? And how much does it cost? And can you apply in languages other than English? It’s not easy. It’s not cheap. And you need to know English. We don’t seem to make it easy, so how can you expect that a girl who just turned 18 would have the resources to become a citizen?
The other point that someone brought up was: “People in this country that are here illegally don’t have rights (except human rights)….plain and simple!” Except human rights? So which rights don’t illegal aliens have? (Someone replied to my reply to generously inform me that the UN doesn’t create laws other countries have to follow, which is, of course, something I am well aware of.) It’s just not a statement I understand, and if you do, please explain it to me.
These issues really come down to simply being American. We’re born with our citizenship. We didn’t work for it (though some of us did). We benefit from taxes because we happened to be born here. How does that make us any more worthy than the people who’ve worked and lived here as long as they can remember? We take citizenship and nationality for granted. I think this video by a girl who went to Haiti (before the earthquake) explores how spoiled we are, and how citizenship and nationality is most definitely a human right:
My internship gives me a lot to think about. I’m constantly researching films, filmmakers, hot topics, youth organizations, and anything else you could think of pertaining to human rights and media. Today I watched a number of youth films about immigration rights. They all touch upon the fact that the United States’s economy depends on immigrant labor, and that families should not be separated.
I enjoyed watching these movies because I felt changed. I didn’t feel as if they repeated my own sentiments. For a while I’ve felt torn on the issue of immigration. My grandfather bought a name and passport and came here illegally, but at the same time, I believe in the law. With that said, it doesn’t mean that the law shouldn’t change. I listen to the arguments about immigrants taking jobs from Americans, to which I reply “do you want those jobs? Will you take those jobs?”
Last time I checked, everyone wants the American dream. More and more people are going to college and applying for white collar jobs. Have you heard about an explosion in the agricultural job market? Are there hundreds of thousands of Americans trying to work on farms or clean houses or do restaurant work? I think not. So what jobs are immigrants taking from “real” Americans?
Those who are not accepted as real Americans almost always do the hardest, ugliest work. And I am a product of two of those groups – my mother’s Irish side and my father’s Chinese side. So how can I deny immigrants their human rights? Just because I’m a natural-born American citizen? How can we deny people reasonable working conditions and minimum wage? Anyway, just some things I was thinking about today.