Last month, I received an email from a young Mexican, “I am a DREAMER (I find the term infantilizing) someone who was brought to the U.S as a child illegally and raised here. I received a work permit through DACA, I can only work legally, I can't step out of the country and step back in as of now, and previously I would have to apply for special permission and pay the government $600 dollars to do so. I have managed to become a university student and it is my senior year. Given that, I plan to go to Mexico after I graduate and never to return to the U.S. Some people were born to be immigrants and I was not one of those people.”
“DREAMER” comes from the the DREAM Act, which is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It was introduced by two senators, Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), in 2001, to eventually grant residency to illegal minors living in the United States.
In 2019, the DREAM Act remains, well, a dream, and it’s unclear if it will ever pass. Its opponents reject all illegal immigration, and don’t want to set any precedent enabling more of it. Its supporters depict the issue morally. The New York Times has published many passionate editorials defending DREAMERS. On February 26th, 2018, for example, there’s Joseph W. Tobin’s “If You’re a Patriot and a Christian, You Should Support the Dream Act,” which begins:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls on us to welcome and protect the stranger. This should not be hard to do when the stranger is young, blameless and working hard to make this country a better place.
There are nearly 700,000 young men and women in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who could soon be at risk for deportation. These “Dreamers” live in our neighborhoods, attend our schools, fight for our country and contribute to our workplaces. Our leaders in Washington, including President Trump, have a moral obligation to try to protect those who came to our nation as children with their parents, and who are Americans in every way.
“Young, blameless and working hard,” dreamers are already ideal citizens, Tobin tells us, so why should we cruelly and immorally deny their simple dream of becoming Americans? At least one, though, is saying, “No, thanks,” so let’s hear more from this young man.
Please talk about your family background, and how you arrived in the US?
I have no full-brother or sister. My parents met in rural Nayarit, only my mother is from there. That was where I was born, for reasons I do not know and am apprehensive to question. My father left my pregnant mother, but returned a couple of years later, but by then my mother and I had immigrated to the U.S. In early 1993 my mother and I had crossed into the U.S illegally/undocumented (the semantics don’t matter.) For clarity's sake I will tell you how I was snuck in. I was placed in a crib in the car of a green-card holding aunt who had a U.S born child, and my cousin's birth certificate was what was shown as proof that the baby in the crib can cross the border. My mother had to cross through the hills on foot like one usually imagines illegal crossings.
Once here, my mother and I had a tranquil existence, she would make good money working factory jobs in and about Orange and San Diego county. Things seemed to have been on the way up but unfortunately she got involved in an abusive relationship with a refugee from Latin America. In a quarrelsome household where one partner has legal presence and the other doesn't, constant threats of deportation were made and that sword of Damocles is one that always hangs over our heads. From then on my mother would run away from the house taking me and my new half-siblings and of course she would be pursued by her abuser, this continued for years. Roughly the years where I was in elementary school to middle school, such an unstable childhood going from women's shelter to unhappy homes again and again left me with the fact that by the time I finished high school I had gone to more schools than there are grades.
Where have you lived in the US, and what are you doing now?
Given such an unstable childhood, I have lived in numerous places in Orange and Fresno county and lived for a while in South L.A then at the time of middle school moved to an Appalachian community.
Currently, I am a senior in a "good" university on the East coast. I had it planned that I would have some sort of legal status by graduation, but outside of DACA I have no legal status. My mother does though, good for her.
Although you’re functionally and socially an American, you’re not one legally, so your integration has been very problematic and tension filled. Please talk about this process. How emotionally attached are you to the USA? And how are your bonds to Mexico?
First thing, I always knew I was illegal, it was something I had to always be conscious of, I don't know anyone else who brought here illegally as a child who did not always know they were illegal. When school tests would ask for my social security number I always had to check with the teacher on how I should answer with the excuse "I don't know my social." I know exactly why I didn't know my social, because I didn't have one. I always knew I was illegal.
Other issues are that I never integrated into a larger immigrant community, because I was always moving around, there were times I lived in immigrant neighborhoods and times I lived in very multi-cultural (no sarcasm, families of all background's inhabited them) woman's shelters. I never sprouted roots
Given that background, there was always the darn hope for papeles, one day, one day we would get our papeles and our nightmare would be over, that was our religion our hope.
Starting in high school my family situation finally more or less settled down. My family moved to a very white and rural area, a place that would make you think why the fuck are there Mexicans here and why would they move here. I finally made long term friends, white americans, who I didn't have to abandon after a couple of months. My high school had very few Latinos, so I was friends with rednecks and edgy white kids. This is the time I was very functionally and socially an American doing American teenager things, but of course I had the burden of illegalness and crushing extreme poverty.
Being poor and not having a social security number really limits what one can do for fun (no money, no driver’s license, no car.) So I read, nonfiction books and articles online and at the library.
It was that habit that led me to question whether I could be and should be an American. And it was also what kept me busy during high school. Teenage delinquency wasn’t for me because I had been taught that as soon as a police officer shows up me and my mom were to be deported (the worst of all fates). Crushing poverty and lack of driver's license also made buying teenage me a car a non-starter. So I was considerably less mobile and much more cautious than regular teenagers. That doesn't mean I didn't drink, smoke pot, or any other teenage stuff, it just meant I was completely reliant on friends with cars. Avoiding legal troubles wasn't difficult for me, for one I dislike weed and I was simply on the road less often than most. Most of my U.S born cousins have been caught with weed in their cars.
Either way, I spent much time contemplating why everything is so fucked up, why did the U.S invade Iraq? Me and my mother knew it was a bad idea, why didn't Bush? Like many teenagers who liked to read I became a stereotypical anti-American teenager. Before I continue I do have to say that after graduating high school and getting a work permit I have had older white co-workers in low paid jobs who were incredibly welcoming and humane, who saw me as a fellow American and took an interest in seeing me succeed. These people represent the best of America and they do exists, but they exist in shockingly low numbers and the larger institutions of this country are built to end such personalities from public life.
Entering the workforce at the bottom of American society doesn't give one much hope or optimism for this country or for one's future, having been sold on the idea of getting a university education and having applied and been accepted into universities, but not being able to go because the schools were public and thus no aid is available to illegals even though thanks to daca I do have a social security card, before daca I couldn't even apply to colleges, what does one put down when applying to college from a U.S address and the form requires a social? I finally learned about some private universities that were need blind even for international students and I applied and got accepted into one.
If one is expecting this part of the story to be one where I go out and have the American college life and fully integrate. Something kind of like that has happened. In my experience young Americans have college years they can’t call golden and quite a few feel alienated from this society. I am the same, I feel alienated. During college I took advantage of library resources and my free time to read more, and I became even more pessimistic about the future, I also had more brush-ups with the bureaucracy of the university and saw the pessimistic ideas I read about are pessimistic realities.
You talk about having kind white coworkers, but what about love interests? Your mother loved a man who was here legally, and he used her illegal status against her. What about you? Has your illegal status gotten in the way of having a relationship with anyone?
I have only had one love interest and legal status had nothing to do with it or it ending, maybe it has a little to do with it because I have never felt like I could provide the life I would want for a family. I couldn’t provide the life I wanted for myself, how would I be able to provide it to myself and a girlfriend?
Being an illegal has taught me to not talk about myself and given such an unstable childhood I don't have a hometown or really any place I can say I am from. Therefore friends and girlfriends don't know I am illegal. But during college and after daca I did open up about it, but not to everyone. And in general people don't know where I am from, not that I could answer that question with a short reply or pick a point on a map that I can call my hometown.
Your life as an illegal, then, has been highly unstable, stress-filled and uncertain, and the DREAM Act gives you little hope, not that you would necessarily embrace it, for you have decided to go home.
This leads to why on Earth would I go back to Mexico. For one and maybe to present a ray of light in this interview is that my father's side of the family contacted me during my college years and want me to go. Honestly without a middle-class Mexican family welcoming me back with open arms, I would probably remain here trying to survive in a culture that rubs me wrong in so many ways(this is worthy of a whole other article).
My mother's side of the family is poor and has basically left Mexico en masse, I have an aunt and a cousin and my maternal grandparents living in a rural community where the average age is 60+ and the young people have all moved to the U.S. Returning to them with no capital would be useless. If I had not been contacted by my father's family I would work until the permit expires then go back with some savings in hand and try to make the best of it.
What draws me to Mexico is my father's family and some personal experiences that contradict the narrative about Mexico from Mexican immigrant. If one is to believe the immigrants from Mexico, one would never leave the U.S. The U.S is a great noble country with no corruption, rule of law etc. And Mexico is the opposite it is basically unliveable. However I will share something I rarely share. I have been to Mexico. After graduating high school and before DACA was announced. I went to Mexico, I worked in a border factory for a couple months then went to Nayarit. And it was amazing. I felt like an actual human being, the first ever official government ID I ever had was credencial de elector I received at the age of 18. I also felt middle-class I didn't feel like I was at the bottom of society, but that I was right at the center. All feelings of being a marginal individual vanished. I was as free and equal as anyone else.
Someone once described poverty as one continuing crisis, and when I went to Mexico the crisis ended. I also saw that I could achieve more as a legal Mexican citizen in Mexico than an illegal Mexican in the U.S. The poverty I live through here in the U.S is ridiculous. My maternal grandparents have a nicer home in Mexico than my mom has in the U.S. But after six months in Mexico I returned to the U.S, because I was still a wandering 18 year old and all my closest family members are in the U.S and once I was in Nayarit it seemed like the thing to do. But the emigre myth of horrible unliveable Mexico was shattered by my experience there.
One reason I was so happy to be back in Mexico was that I was 18, living on my own and 3/4 of my income was disposable. Sure it wasn't a lot of disposable income but it felt like a lot. Having all that gave me a nice taste of adulthood. Here in the U.S expenses are high, and everything is so damn competitive, there is so much pressure to be better in all aspects, to achieve ever more and if that fails one must consume ever more. Mexico felt like a place where I could just be. The jobs I worked here in the U.S were so damn demanding eating into my weekends, requiring half-hour or longer commutes and paperwork. In America low-wage manual temp workers are required to do paperwork, apparently managers are too stupid or too lazy to manage parts, production and what not. Being managed by dumbasses is one thing, it is a near universal experience nowadays, but being limited by law to remaining in such a position is fucking bullshit. But now I recognize even with legal status social mobility is shot, your birth determines your status in life. It is the American inability to face this fact, to deny reality and dismiss it, that is turning it into a decaying empire.
In Mexico I met people whom I could not have met in the U.S, Mexicans who had zero interest in going to the U.S and some who had gone to the U.S and disliked it and never wanted to go again. Growing up in an immigrant household that dealt with such heavy burdens and problems, I thought that if we are dealing with this awful situation (domestic violence, grinding poverty, constant fear of deportation, constant moving) instead of being in Mexico, Mexico HAD to be worse, why else would anyone choose my life in the U.S.
Also learning about Mexico from emigres gives you a really distorted view of Mexico. While working in the border factory I was talking to a buddy about how I was fucked for not having U.S legal status, he asked what would I do with legal status. I said "I would become an accountant," my co-worker scoffed and said, "you could do that here." It hit me, Mexico was a real country with a real middle-class with mundane people such as accountants and the other jobs I thought only existed in "white" countries. Sure, getting paid in USD has been called life on easy mode, but pretty much any job that exists in the U.S exists in Mexico. I want to contrast that with the life I was showcased in the U.S all the successes in my immigrant community were working shit jobs, had fat, ugly wives and their point of pride was lifted trucks with excessive fake plastic silver trimming and tacky jewelry. Tacky jewelry and lifted trucks aren't enough to convince me to live in the shadows and be limited to low-end jobs. For that matter neither are hi-end sports cars or folding smartphones enough to convince me to stay. I would rather be poorer than an American working a shit job but have more dignity at work and in society than an American shit job workers has. I was searching for the dignity that an illegal immigrant trades-in when they decide to come. I want to be clear I am talking about those who DECIDE to come, not those who pretty much are forced to come, people unfortunate enough to have to choose between dignity and life.
One question you might have about Mexico is about security. Honestly, I felt more fear in the U.S, due to the threat of deportation, than I did in Mexico. I was there during Calderon's drug war, so things were bad on the news. But the attitude Mexicans had about it was, that the only people who get killed by cartels are people who are part of cartels. If you don't get involved in such things, it doesn't affect you.
Something that has been on my mind recently is that I am a Mexican in America and there exists in America the image of the Mexican in America and it is not a good image. To make sense of that word salad consider the image that comes to mind when one thinks of the name Juan Rodriguez. One assumes a landscaper, janitor or other low-wage laborer, if Juan Rodriguez has a college degree, one assumes an affirmative-action student who wasn't really deserving of the degree or acceptance into university. Juan Rodriguez is not a professor, not a lawyer, not a blank slate like the name John Smith. Contrast that to Mexico or any other hispanophone nation, Juan Rodriguez is a blank slate, Juan could be anyone a lawyer, a millionaire, a doctor whatever. Of course in the U.S there exists doctors etc. with the name Juan, but people always seemed to be surprise to find that out about Juan. Don't jump on me with criticisms of statements I never made. Juan in the U.S probably (I use the word probably because I haven't verified it) fits the stereotype of being a low-wage laborer. I just want to illustrate I don't want to deal with the burden of the image of Juan in the U.S. But I don’t want to take away from the struggles of poor Americans. The anme John Smith doesn’t give any real benefit, and in general if you are born poor in the U.S you are fucked, whatever your name is.
I came to the U.S and now I am close to finishing my degree I don't see much future here as a Mexican, especially as an illegal Mexican and even as a hypothetical American. This is a decaying empire, a toxic(don't imply this to mean SJW sympathies) culture, and quite frankly (and I feel at liberty to say this because it is unz.com, so far this interview seems like it could be published anywhere else on the internet, but I must say the following) this country is Jewish, in all ways in thinking, in the distribution of power and wealth. I can't find it within myself to be part of a country that supports Israel and other inhumane actions. Especially when the country is basically telling me to go fuck myself with the signals of low-wages, rising costs, police impunity, crooked justice system and government, surveillance state.
And I must add I truly fear for Mexicans in the U.S there is so much vitriol and hatred out there towards us and I don't see it de-escalating. Why be poor in the U.S and deal with all the aforementioned issues, when I can be poor in Mexico and live more freely. America has avarice and greed as culture and that is not me, even if I was guaranteed a 100K salary, I would still leave. I also thank my lucky stars that I have someplace to go to, I truly feel for the African-Americans, they have nowhere to go.
I only speak for myself, despite my desire to get the hell out of here. I understand the plight of other DREAMERs, I know how living in an immigrant community fills your head with ridiculous misconceptions about Mexico coming from trusted family members who have lived there, and if you can't trust them who can you trust? These DREAMERs find themselves in between a rock and a hard place, some are really scared as fuck to go back because of the misconceptions and others are just woefully unprepared with no family to welcome them back.
During my time in Mexico my one maternal uncle who did not migrate congratulated on coming back, he said it was good that I returned because many emigres in his words become "afraid of Mexico" and I would not be. Their fear is very real although based on distortion and myths. The even more sad cases are DREAMERs who have fully Americanized who would die and fight for this country and view it as their homeland and manage to identify with it. They are truly fucked for reasons completely out of their control. Which is why I favor DREAMER legalization, it is simply the right humane thing to do. That doesn't mean I am not wary of the problems it might cause, but to deal with illegal immigration you have to go after employers and stop giving birthright citizenship and marriage visas. Without those things immigration would just plain stop, the other thing is the imperial nature of U.S foreign and domestic policy. Move away from a system that requires cheap labor and that requires whatever it was that motivated the brutal U.S sponsored violence in Latin America and the world. I have joked with my friends about why Sweden doesn't send all the refugees particularly Afghan and Somali refugees U.S policy has created, to the U.S. Why should Sweden pay for the U.S's mistakes, or for that matter the Afghan people pay an even worse price than Sweden?
About my emotional ties to the U.S, how could I have any? Of course I will miss my friends and family. I don't want to live here but I would like to easily cross the border to visit friends and family, but we have to play the cards we are dealt. I have to leave. As a Mexican, and as a Mexican with no legal status there is nothing I can do to change the path of this country. Only the Americans can do that
Like all people, in life I search for agency, and in the U.S I don't have agency, my life choices are limited and so is my participation in the destiny of this country. My outlook for the U.S is pessimistic, I don't see good things down the road, and as pessimistic as that is the odds of an illegal Mexican changing that are EVEN WORSE. Those being the sum of my heart and mind, it makes no sense to stay here. Leaving here is partly the renunciation of American life/culture and fleeing a sinking ship all wrapped in a layer of having never belonged here.
I want to address something I hear and find to be counter-productive arguments for immigration control. I hear many worry about immigration because they don't want brown grandkids. On its face the argument is laughable, the people responsible for preventing brown grandkids are the grandparents, it is not anyone else's job. Secondly, open borders (which I am against) is perfectly compatible with having white grandkids. One can have both, so it is not even an anti-immigration argument.
The reason I find this argument destructive is that it distracts from the real problems with immigration and subtly calls for the extermination of dark skinned people, if you can't keep your children from race-mixing and want white grandkids the only other option is to eliminate other races, let's be honest no one is calling for minorities to sign anti-race-mixing pledges or punishment for whites who race-mix, they simply want to not take responsibility for their grandchildren's skin color. Lack of confidence in your childrearing abilities or laziness about it is a horrible reason to ethnically cleanse an area.
Another very destructive argument is that if America was to become majority non-white it would mean the end of all good things about America. This argument is destructive because it assumes a foreign force is the source of all problems in America and assumes that positive aspects about America are not illusions or in advanced decay.
It wasn't high levels of brown people that created the disgusting caricature of Left politics in America known as the New Left, it wasn't brown people that made the U.S a greedy and avaricious nation, it wasn't brown people that made the U.S a staunch ally of Israel since its founding, it wasn't brown people who ended community sentiment. Of course the U.S has become more brown, but it is not a case of correlation being causation. The internal problems were initiated and America became worse THEN it started becoming browner.
But if you focus on the two destructive arguments I outline the core internal problems can never be confronted. One example is imperial war, I will forgive the U.S for Mexican-American war, but the Spanish-American war is unforgivable and signals that there is an internal problem that goes back long before it could be blamed on brown and black people. How the fuck are you going to complain about brown people and ignore when you cross an ocean to take the Philipines and sail the Caribbean to take Puerto Rico and then by force keep it as part of the U.S. There was a Puerto Rican independence movement, and the U.S decided to destroy it. That is the height of hypocrisy of a country that supposedly wishes to keep its brown population low.
My last message is to the Americans and the patriots, please try to end the empire and become a republic. Try to supersede the divisive narratives and focus on the true issues of greed and lack of humanity. This is not intended to distract from other issues, such as immigration. I think immigration should end. End birth-right-citizenship and marriage visas, along with all other visas. But overthrow your media, refuse the culture-war stories and focus on the real stories of graft, corruption, useless wars and greed. The true culture war requires having the balls and maturity to make moral judgements and look beyond the clickbait ragefuel that distracts from who controls you. Practice critical thought, question your media and the elites. Stop uncritically accepting political agendas and talking points of talking heads. Stop letting your reality be created/experienced for you. America is pretty crooked and fucked but the majority don't see it. At least third worlders admit their problems, but Americans can't, they always blame someone else. Stop blaming others, you are one of the greatest superpowers in history. Introspection will go a long way. I am not calling for the false self-criticism of white guilt, I am calling for the self-criticism needed after a self-inflicted catastrophe.
You've decided that Mexico would be better for you, but do you think Mexico itself has a bright future, and if so, why? You agree with me that the US is in trouble, so do you think that Mexico will do better than the US in the long run?
I think no one would ever nuke Mexico, so that is a plus, also Mexico's population growth is slowing and it is doing better. China and Japan used to bleed tons of migrants and now they are leading the world. Mexico may have passed its bleeding migrants phase and moved onto a development phase. In the U.S I won't be able to provide the rural and autonomous lifestyle I want for me and a possible wife. It is kind of ironic, because that is what my grandparents had. The allures of life in America, the expensive trinkets have zero draw on me. I have fallen out of love with the U.S. A cheesy metaphor was that I was in arranged marriage to the U.S but I saw her face and am now running away. Back to the point, I don't think Mexico will become a superpower, nor would I want it to, I just think my future is brighter there than here. And I think even my american-born half-siblings futures are brighter there than here. Who knows what the future holds for the U.S but it just seems like an expanding pauper class, I do see a simple satisfying life being out of reach for an expanding number of Americans. Sure Mexicans can't become admirals with aircraft carriers under their command, but they can live simple meaningful lives (I cautiously assume.)
a young man with eyes that see great interview
Fascinating, heart-rending and a little annoying. Catch up with him again in 2039 please, Linh!
I caught up with him last year. He's at the end of this article:
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