I silenced my phone.
I muted notifications from Twitter and Facebook.
I turned off breaking news updates from my news apps.
I then watched two episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix before falling asleep.
President Obama was making a speech that would leave an unprecedented mark on his presidential score card. President Obama used his executive powers to protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. President Obama used his executive powers to create a solution to a problem that has plagued this nation for decades. President Obama has used his executive powers to finally give an answer to millions of human beings living in fear of being ripped away from this amazingly beautiful – though often tainted with economic instability, hate crimes and poverty – country.
He chose to act after giving numerous opportunities to Congress to figure out what would be best for the American people. Congress failed. The President acted.
Now, whether you believe that his actions are illegal or simply a gross disregard of what needs to be done about this issue, take a moment to read what I have to say.
I am a product of immigration. I am a product of illegal immigration. I am an American by default.
“Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids,” Obama said. “We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.”
Felons, not families.
Let me tell you about some families I have met:
I founded an organization in college called Student Organization of Latinos. It was a group to unite the Latinos at Florida Southern and anyone else interested in simply learning more about our culture. One year, we had the opportunity to work with an organization that assisted farm workers in a rural area. A task that day was to distribute gifts and food to families in a trailer park. Upon turning onto the dirt driveways that separated the single wide, insulation-less, no carpet, one bathroom, no separate bedroom trailers, I heard gasps from some of my friends who were in my car. This kind of poverty was new to them.
Children without coats or long sleeved shirts or even shoes came running out to see who was visiting. It was maybe 50 degrees – freezing for any Floridian. They weren’t running around without proper clothing because they were being little rascals. No, they were simply wearing all they had.
When we started handing out toys, small brown fingers with dirt beneath their nails brushed ours. Bright white smiles hid their dirty cheeks. Tears rolled down the faces of their mothers. Hushed words of gratitude were so very graciously given to us.
They had no beds. They warmed up their water on the stove top just to take baths. They ate the same meal for days at a time. They were undocumented families.
Regardless of how they came to this country, they were families.
Criminals, not children.
Let me tell you about the most beautiful child I ever met.
When I was in high school, I was required to do community service for one of the organizations I was a part of my senior year. I chose to volunteer at my alma mater, Bowling Green Elementary, on an open-house night. I was with Mrs. Connie Montgomery’s kindergarten class. I translated for her as parents asked questions and looked around where their children were spending the majority of their days.
In the middle of a sentence, I felt a tug on my arm. There stood a little boy. Rosy cheeks. Sweatshirt that was a bit too tight and short around his belly. White shoes with today’s dust from the playground.
“Read?” He asked me with the most breathtakingly beautiful smile I had ever seen. “Read? Now? Please?”
How could I say no?
He handed me a book. I don’t remember what it was about, but it was one of those that played sounds once you reached a certain page in the book.
We read the book twice. We would have read it three times if his mother had not stopped me.
“Can you translate?” She asked me in Spanish.
“Can you ask Mrs. Montgomery what I can do to help? I can’t read. I can’t write. I want him to be successful.”
Mrs. Montgomery didn’t need help translating at that moment.
“Just tell her that as long as she makes sure he gets it done and sits next to him, I’ll do the rest.”
Then I felt his arms wrap around my legs.
Now before people throw out their usual arguments and comments of dismay like, “They’re illegal!” “They broke the law!” “They should all be sent back!” Let’s take a moment to have a reality check, yes?
Do we truly understand how much it would cost the American people to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants? Do we understand the trauma we will cause to these children?
Would these deportations have been done humanely? With dignity and respect? Would we be nice and knock on doors? Would we give them ample notice to pack their belongings?
As much as we claim to be the home of the free and to value human rights, let’s just all get on the same page that if we don’t even value one another as Americans, what makes us think we would value the human rights of illegals?
What do you mean, Ashley?
There are nearly 1,000 hate groups in the United States. Many of these groups came into existence when President Obama was elected. Most of these hate groups are racially biased and abhor illegals. What makes us think that these hate groups won’t take it into their own hands to ensure that the individuals are deported?
Oh, and do we want to assume all of these illegals are Mexican? Let’s go for it. Do you know what is even happening in Mexico right now? We want to offer amnesty to other nations whose governments are run by tyrants, but Mexico doesn’t count? Look at this:
· The Mexican Drug War has killed tens of thousands Mexican citizens in the last few years.
· 43 students were killed by the – Mayor in Mexico.
Yes, let’s send these families to their death, right? Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
It is completely ignorant, yes ignorant, to believe that mass deportations will work. Take a moment to remember “Operation Wetback” which began in 1953 and lasted for five years and deported 3.8 million Mexicans, including some Americans who happened to be of Mexican descent.
And, let’s not forget how many billions of dollars it would take to deport these millions of individuals…$285 billion dollars over 5 years.
President Obama has made an executive decision and that’s not going to change any time soon. While the country is split between anger and relief, let me offer you these simple facts:
· This is not a path to citizenship. This only protects them from deportation.
· Individuals will need to pay for their paperwork to be submitted. Cha-ching.
· Deportations will now be prioritized to target criminals of violent crimes. Should Sherriff Joe be happy about that one?
· Foreign workers from high-tech fields will now be able to work within our borders easier. You know what that means? We are back in the race for global superiority in technology.
· Recent immigrants will not qualify for protection under this bill. Only families will be able to qualify if they have been in the country for a consistent period of time.
· Individuals will be given social security cards. They will now be paying into the system even more so – not that argument about illegals stealing our money! will be even less valid.
My words are just words. There is no call to action in this post. There is no solution to our country’s immigration issue between these lines. There is simply my plea to those of you who have turned your hearts to stone under the notion that since you’re American and since they deserve to be sent back to countries where murder or death by starvation may most certainly plague them.
Disclaimer: I’m not naïve enough to think that my words will change the mind of a conservative who gathers all of their information from right-winged media outlets (who do not even know how to accurately research a bill or sources), so if you feel the need to insult me or undocumented immigrants. There’s a nice little feature in your browser that you can use to exit this page.