I met with some of my neighbors this weekend to talk about immigration. Some immigrant neighbors, some non-immigrant neighbors. I’m still reeling from this meeting, which surprises me a little because I didn’t really learn anything new. We had a (volunteer!) attorney there to answer questions and provide information and advice both about the DACA program as it currently stands and about preparation in the event of detainment or deportation.
I want to write about how inspired I was by these brave neighbors of mine, some of whom shared very personal information about their immigration situations. Or about how encouraged I was that there were others in attendance who are standing in humble solidarity with their immigrant and refugee friends. Or about how impressive the organization ISAIAH is and its work to advocate for and protect vulnerable people. Or about how thrilling it was to not need the interpreter because I actually understood the presentation in Spanish.
But honestly, the only emotion I seem to be able to feel about the whole thing is shame.
I am so ashamed of this reality for my neighbors – and for so many others. I am so ashamed of our country – that we have allowed things to get to this point. We have made immigrant and refugee children political pawns every minute that the DREAM act remains undecided. That we seem content with a reality where my neighbor – whose name I won’t share out of protection for her – was literally filling out paperwork to delegate decision-making on behalf of her children in the event that she or her husband are detained or deported.
Do you get that? Like, literally, as I was sitting there thinking about what Christmas gifts I’m going to give to my son and how I hope his taste buds come back around to avocado; she was sitting next to me planning for the worst case scenario. I haven’t even executed a will because I can’t bring myself to think about what I would want for Eamon if I weren’t here. I can’t imagine if this were an imminent risk for me.
I’m tempted to go on about how great this sweet neighbor of mine is, and how she’s a contributing member of society, and is raising two amazing kids, and is such a hard worker, and so incredibly kind – you know, in an effort to convince you that she’s worthy. Worthy of being here in this country. Worthy of your concern. Worth of status.
But that skirts the issue. She is a human being. She is my neighbor, but she is also your neighbor. That is what makes her worthy. Not ethnic background. Not income level. Not first language. Not gender. Not the country of origin. Not immigration status.
No one should have to make contingency plans in the event that they are separated from their children. Not one human. Not one neighbor.