La Mariposa en la Pared

The everyday experiences of latino immigrants through the eyes of an outsider. Las vidas típicas de unos inmigrantes latinos a través de los ojos de una forastera.

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Location: Upstate NY, United States

"To me it’s always interesting when you get accepted somewhere you don’t really belong. It’s interesting when people open up and let you in their world." - Gilles Mingasson

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fear & Despair: Thanks, Department of Homeland (In-)Security!

I've heard more and more lately something along the lines of, "I changed my tune about immigration issues once I got to personally know some immigrants." That has been the idea behind this blog from the very beginning, to present the lives of immigrants, some documented and many not, so that more people can get to know them as people, as fellow human beings, each with a story, each worthy of love and dignity.

Occasionally, though, I have to show the ugly things that are happening to them, all in the name of the Law. For every victory in the name of human dignity, it seems like we are suffering a thousand defeats. I say "we" because injustice against any person is cause for alarm; an injury to one is an injury to all.

I become overwhelmed at times with it all, hence my long spells of silence, when my stories of migrants learning to live here and dance here and love here seem frivolous in light of the increasingly nerve-wracking reality that they live with every day.

Sunday morning two kitchen workers showed up to the restaurant bright and early to begin preparing food for the day. They stood by the door finishing off their cigarettes when a car pulled up beside them, and a voice in Spanish called out from a lowered window, "What time do you guys open?" Always happy to hear his language spoken in a town where it hardly ever is, Jaime smiled and approached the car to answer the question.

More questions followed. Did he know of any Hispanic barber shops in the area? How about Mexican grocery stores? Because the occupants of the car were clearly Hispanic, perhaps their questions were innocent, he thought. But Jaime knows as well as any of us that the hispanos around here all know each other, and they know where to get their hair cut, and where to buy their groceries.

Milton hung back, frowning, as an eerily familiar feeling of dread and mistrust washed over him. Their language and their ethnicity did not put him at ease. He felt uneasy, and catching Jaime's eye, shook his head ever so slightly and took another step back.

After giving vague and unhelpful answers to their questions, Jaime stepped back, too, and the car drove away.

Both boys climbed solemnly back into their little truck and went home. The restaurant did not open that day, and they both lost a day's pay. Living in fear is not only demoralizing, it is also costly, as a restaurant and it's workers lose their income even as bills still need to be paid.

Now, who in my community feels safer from terrorism? How, exactly, is this kind of fear and loathing helpful to our economy and our security? How does the intimidation and detention of kitchen workers make our country better?

It doesn't.

Nor do things like this. Or this. I could go on, but that's enough despair for one day.


Blogger Tony Herrera said...


It's good to see you posting. Thanks! for the link on Pedro.

I share your feelings of despair, it's also one of the main reasons why my blogging is so sporadic. I get a Google News Feed on topic of "immigration" and once I've gone through the daily news stories, I'm so disheartened by what undocumented immigrants go through on a daily basis, that it's just plain difficult for me to sit down and write a worthy blog post.

I commend you and other pro-migrant bloggers who continue to find the time and the strength to write about the injustices being perpetrated upon undocumented immigrants on a daily basis.

I'm hopeful that the next Presidential Administration will find the courage to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform and eliminate ICE and relegate DHS back to what it was originally intended, which was; a Governmental agency that works to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, an agency with a goal to reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism.

Dios Mio!, I can't wait for November to arrive!

7/11/2008 3:37 AM  
Blogger janna said...

Thank you for your encouraging words, Tony. Although I am not happy that anyone shares my feeling of helplessness and despair, I'm glad to know that I'm not alone in this.

I got a phone call yesterday from young Milton because someone was pounding on his door. Since the raid in February, these guys are on pins and needles all the time. Nativists believe they deserve to live in fear, and that this kind of intimidation will lead to self-deportation. But given the desperation they face in Guatemala, they'll stay here as long as they possibly can, in spite of their fears. It's so un-American, and so heartless, to put this kind of pressure on these boys who are the sole hope of their families.

I also hope that our new president will be successful in passing humane, reasonable reform to provide legal ways for migrants to work here.

Your post on Pedro Zapeta was such a breath of fresh air! Keep up the good fight, Tony. Thanks again.

7/11/2008 12:43 PM  
Blogger Conchscooter said...

Barack Obama will be better than Bush but he is cagey Chicago politician, capable of actually getting elected. When the oil crisis/housing crisis/climate crisis get properly caught up with the economies in the Americas we will see undocumented immigration like never before. That will provoke a reaction and I dare say the depair you feel today will be as nothing. There's a cheerful thought.

7/15/2008 12:58 AM  
Blogger janna said...

Yes, I believe you're right. The worse the economy gets, for us & for Latin America, the more scapegoating will get aimed at migrants, and the more detentions we'll see, along with all the injustices that brings.

7/15/2008 10:27 AM  

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