*Editor’s note: “Stop covering politics,” some of our dear readers cry every time we post something relephant. Look: politics are life. Equal rights, empathy, fair economy, healthcare. We can’t ignore what’s happening, and you shouldn’t either. Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. Also, well-deserved strong language ahead!
The argument goes something like this: “This is a country of laws—if they want to come here, they need to come here without breaking the law like everybody else.”
Such minimization—such a simple and ignorant statement based on a belief that we are still fair and just to those seeking a better life in our country.
Still, it appears as an intelligent, lucid, well-built, and reasonable statement, but no one cares to dig a little deeper. Millions of people have come here legally, so why can’t “they”? As in the poor bastards sitting in cages at the border, dying in train containers, drowning in the Rio Grande, and getting shot at by Texas Republicans. Fuck them!
And that is where the statement becomes bullshit, an excuse, a bullet point to ignore “why” these poor people come here and “have to break the law.”
Do you think for a second that if it were as simple as “applying for a visa” and “waiting your turn” that people would still choose to go to any length to come here and risk their very lives? But here is the first problem: these people are not breaking into the United States to go to Disneyland; they are doing it out of necessity and as a consequence of a system that would never let them come here because of their lower social status, presumed lower intelligence, lack of education, and size of their bank account.
My brother is a wealthy man. One day he decided he wanted to come here and start a business, buy an expensive apartment, and come and go as he pleased. He went to the American Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, in the middle of the “drug war” mind you, presented his balance statement, and walked out with one of the most difficult types of visas to obtain—all in just a few days.
My brother is not relevant to the immigration crisis happening today. He is a “one percenter” and a person used to all of the privileges and perks the world has to offer—rich beyond belief, educated, intelligent, and capable. And while he earned all of it, he also had an influential upbringing that pushed him to be all he is. My brother, as well as me and my twin brother, is not the type of person who has to break the law to come here.
The people we are talking about are people who are seen as low on the totem pole of humanity, people who are so forgotten by society, people who cause such disgust to their own country, much less ours, and people in such dire straits that we can’t even begin to understand their situation—nor do we want to! These people know, for certain, that it is 100 percent impossible to obtain permission to come across, because the new American policy is not to welcome immigrants or to protect “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of a teeming shore.”
The new American policy is this: Fuck you if you are poor—don’t even waste our time. And if you come here, you must prove that you will benefit our country with your intelligence, improve the economy, not mooch off our social services, not commit crimes, pay taxes, not take an “able American’s job,” and as soon as you can’t fulfill those agreements, you must promise to get the hell out or we will get you the hell out. Great, now prove to us that these are your true and only intentions.
This is a fact that people here refuse to understand or believe or explain intelligently and honestly. It is a system rigged in favor of those who can afford it, financially and emotionally, and if you can’t, we will make it impossible for you.
Fuck your starving child or your sick mother. The hell with your political persecution bullshit stories; go cry to Canada and Germany—they love that sappy shit. Who gives a shit about how war (the drug war, the Communists, the opposition, or civil war) displaced you and you have lived hiding in a jungle, hungry and cold for the past two years. That is what we tell people every day who try to “uphold the law” and are naive enough to fill out their paperwork and show up to some American embassy to tell their story.
“Well, you did it! You came here legally,” people argue with me. So I tell them the truth: “I came here in the landing gear of a passenger jet and jumped into the ocean two miles outside Miami International.” And I wait…and then I say, “I’m just fucking with you.” (Although I’m sure people have actually done things similar to that.)
But to answer their question, yes, I did come here legally—because I came here to be an exchange student, not because my parents got killed in front of me by some guerrilla thug, or because I wouldn’t work for a drug cartel. I didn’t come here out of a pure and existential necessity. I didn’t “have to” come here, and lucky for me, I caught the last shift of the American government that still cared and actually had a reasonable immigration policy—40 years go. Go Jimmy Carter!
And then there’s, “What about all of the migrant workers that we ‘allow’ in?” Migrant workers are basically—no, exactly—like slaves. They get “hired” at the border, mainly to pick crops in sub-human conditions for sub-human wages, and then an American company that acts like those companies that transport criminals from jail to jail buses them all over the United States and keeps track of them, like a scene from one of those movies with the guards on horseback with a shotgun at their side. Then they get bused back like animals, often not compensated for their work.
But what happens when you live in a shithole like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta or pretty much any town in Mexico—most of them devastated by the greed of the government, the earth-crushing drug cartels, or the greedy militias, and your daughter looks you in the eye at night and says: “Daddy, I am cold and hungry”? And yes, I said it: shitholes, step out of your beachfront resort, open your eyes, and you will see it clearly. Anyway, when you hear those words, what innate instincts come alive inside you and what role do you immediately assume? The role of “protector”—we do it, animals do it, all creatures do it. We protect our young, we protect ourselves, and in this situation, you have no option but to look North (and if you are in Guatemala or Honduras or Colombia, “North” means America, not Mexico).
The Mexican people are beautiful, hard-working, law-abiding people, but have been dealt a bad hand. These “Mexicans”—a word that has become so toxic in so many ways—are people, our brothers and sisters, and we refer to them, or at least the president and his followers do, as vandals and criminals, rapists and drug dealers, which couldn’t be further from the truth. These people, unless pushed to the brink of insanity, would not even think of shoplifting, or robbing someone, or stealing to support their family. Their mindset is to find an honest way to earn money, a trait we wish more people in America would believe in.
These poor people wish it were as simple as going to the embassy and asking for help to come here with a work permit, but they know it isn’t possible. They know they will be turned away and placed on a watch list to monitor all of their moves and track them to see where they go from there on.
To get a visa in any country of the world, you have to have money. In Colombia right now, the cost of a visa is around $1500 after all the fees from all the agencies—an amount that a vast majority of people in Colombia would find unreachable. Once that is paid, you have to prove that you have money to live without tapping into the welfare system, enough money to last your entire stay, money which the government sometimes freezes only to release upon your legal return. You have to prove that you will be returning, and that you are not planning to stay beyond your visa expiration. You have to have medical records and letters of recommendation; education and certain personal appearances are also key, as you will be stereotyped and profiled throughout the whole process. And you must be ready for this “process” to take anywhere from one month to two or three years of heavy red tape before you get a decision. The bureaucracy is massive.
So now what? Your daughter is hungry, you are being persecuted for your political beliefs, the drug cartel has taken possession of your farm or your home, the crime in Mexican towns is so high that staying there and not working for the cartels almost guarantees your demise, you have no job, no money, many of your family members have fled or been killed, you don’t have two years to wait for a visa—what do you do? You do the only thing there is to do: you come here illegally and risk it all. Not to be a burden to America. And not to take advantage of our system. You come here to give your family a fighting chance.
You come here because it’s the only possible way.
I wish all undocumented immigrants all the luck in the world and safe travels. May you reach this rich, beautiful, and safe land soon. May you get to give your family a future and a purpose other than running from danger and poverty their whole life. I am with you.