June 16th, 2015 saw the announcement of a presidential campaign which quickly discovered that the surest route to its success was demonising me. Not personally, I mean, I’m pretty amazing, but I haven’t managed to cause ripples quite that big. Yet.
Am I being overly dramatic? Yes. I’m documented, I’m not Latinx, I’m not Muslim, I’m not a refugee: those have been the main targets of that ongoing campaign. However, the particular visa which brought us to the US was specifically mentioned, I have been identified as a threat, the campaign gained support by promising to take action against me. And has since made good on that promise, though it’s acknowledged as largely symbolic, a gesture to his supporters.
Many of the last 14 months have been spent scouring news articles for information on what action might be taken against us. 14 months since Brexit shattered any illusions that common sense might trump fear-mongering and thinly veiled racism. We’ve lived in the US for 6 years (our children have lived here for half their life): 6 years of working hard, paying taxes, volunteering in our community, making friends, picking up litter, finding lost dogs, arranging playdates, collecting warm clothes to hand out to homeless people, supporting small businesses, missing our family, helping our local school district, exploring this beautiful country, and incidentally, 6 years since we began the process of applying for a Green Card. 14 months of wondering how much notice we’ll get, and how to build a life in England again.
What do I want you to know about immigrants? I can’t speak for all of us, but my experiences are still important, my worries are valid, and despite being incredibly privileged in so many ways it’s been a really difficult journey for my family.
I mentioned previously that immigration is a feminist issue, many well-researched articles have covered this properly. Often when you read articles on immigration they fall into the same pattern, they say ‘immigrants’ when what they really mean is undocumented immigrants from Latin America. The words matter, laws are built on those words, presidential campaigns are won on those words. The people hurt most by immigration laws are women and children, and I’m saying this as someone who has been prevented from taking any paid employment for 6 years. Don’t tell me that the only people being targeted are those without the appropriate documentation, because I have the documentation, yet I’m still a target. Don’t hide behind the failed promise that only those with criminal records would be targeted either.
“Immigrants are a huge problem, oh but I didn’t mean you, I meant those brown ones, the ones with the accents, who refuse to learn our language, you’re okay.”
THEN BE SPECIFIC WITH YOUR WORDS. And also, just so you are aware, that’s still a shitty attitude. Undocumented immigrants make America work. If they were gone, you wouldn’t want to live here, I promise. “Nearly all economists, of all political persuasions, agree that immigrants — those here legally or not — benefit the overall economy.” And they pay taxes too! Many were born here and no longer have families or homes to ‘go back’ to. DAPA and DACA are pathways that these amazing people who benefit our society can use to gain the pieces of paper that validate their existence.
Wait, didn’t I say that our immigration process has taken 6 years and counting, it’s been a huge amount of trouble, a huge financial burden, and is still ongoing? Yet I’m all in favour of supporting undocumented immigrants who skip that whole process? That makes no sense!
I was lucky. Very lucky. Among other things, lucky enough to have a highly skilled husband who found an employer willing to spend a fortune on legal support and the immigration process. Skills that earned enough money that we could survive (and thrive) on one income for that entire process. We weren’t fleeing war, we didn’t have to put our children in a boat because the water was safer than the land, we were looking for adventure and new opportunities and weren’t in fear for our safety. We came here looking for frosting and sprinkles for the plain (but delicious!) cupcake that was our life, many immigrants (documented and undocumented) come here for the chance of half a dried crust of bread of a life because it’s better than what they leave behind.
What do I want you to take away from this article? That immigrants, all immigrants (especially refugees), have value. We are not Skittles, poisoned or otherwise. Though Skittles are amazing, I love Skittles. Remember me, and my family, when you get annoyed about immigrants because they’re talking too loud behind you at the DMV in a language you don’t understand. You need them. Your country (any country) has so much to gain by welcoming us. We give you far, far more than we take. I’m taking Skittles, by the handful.