I read an article today in Oprah magazine by Allison Glock from February called “Hiding in Plain Sight” that made me break down and cry. It had the most succinct and poignant summation of why people are willing to risk their lives and break our laws to live in the US:
“For immigrants, heaven is minimum wage. Heaven is clean water. Heaven is an end to the constant threat of violence….the heaven bar is pretty darn low, which is why so many immigrants embrace the thankless jobs most native-born Americans refuse to consider. If you can find paradise working in a meatpacking plant or emptying bedpans, imagine what your hell must have looked like. Now imagine raising your children there. What would you do to escape? What wouldn’t you do?”
Seriously. What wouldn’t you do?
That’s a picture of water bottles left by activists for those who cross the border in Arizona. The Border Patrol empties those water bottles into the dirt when they find them.
In 2009 alone, the Border Patrol deported the members of 869 families separately, which means that parents were split up from their children. Almost 200 teenagers and 94 children were “repatriated” after dark, which means they were dropped off alone at night, in areas where they probably knew no one. Some of these children had been in the US for almost their entire lives and did not speak Spanish. Between January and June of 2011, the Obama administration deported more than 46,000 parents of children who are U.S. citizens. Some of those children were sent to foster care.
Why don’t these immigrants just fill out their forms and wait in line? By one estimate, it would take some Mexicans 131 years to get to the front of the line. I’ve said it before, but this bears repeating: the majority of illegal immigrant workers pay property and sales tax; they pay social security and other payroll taxes. Studies like those done by the Pew Hispanic Research Center in 2006 have found no relationship between the employment rate of native-born Americans and the number of immigrants living among them.
So many illegal immigrants in this country hide in plain sight, going about their lives quietly despite the unrelenting worry they live with every day. As Glock says, “To live the life of an undocumented immigrant is to master the art of compartmentalization. You go to work, you grocery shop, you take your child to soccer. You carpool and pick up batteries and forget to buy milk. You do exactly what every other American family is doing. Only you do it in a fog of fear.”
I remember that fear. Now that it’s been almost 8 months since my husband was granted a green card, sometimes I forget what it was like to live like that, and then I read something like this article and it’s like being punched in the stomach. I remember the panic and the desperation suddenly, the tension that you hide from other people and the way it never stops. I’d like to leave you with a visual of the lengths these people will go to in order to come to this country:
What did I do to deserve being born here?