Thursday, July 29, 2010

RE: Indigenous Immigrants

"Well, you all are certainly entitled to your opinions, but I disagree 100%.  It has everything to do with established immigration law in the United States and those who do not abide by it.  I understand your mindset, but this is 2010, and legal immigration needs to be enforced.  It's not just about Mexico, although they are the biggest offenders.  I think the US should follow Canada's model considering immigration.  

"I think we've allowed the Illegal Immigrants to take over our country and our system.  Why the hell do I have to press 1 now for English?  Consider how well you would fare if you decided to move to Mexico.  Believe me, they sure as hell would not learn English for you.  Or any other language aside from their own.  That is, if you managed not to get shot, or kidnapped, tortured and then brutally executed and dumped in a mass grave in the desert.  Sorry, but I do not agree with your words at all.  I really don't want that element to continue encroaching on our homeland." [Reply on Native Truth Chat list serve]
My response:

I teach English to adults. About 75% of them are from the Americas. So, they do realize that English is essentially important in this country. This is in NYC where I NEVER have to press 1 for English. I have to wait less than one second while there's a message that says "para espanol marque el dos". Two myths busted.

My students who come from the Americas, especially North America, either speak indigenous languages or are among the first or second generation to speak Spanish as their first language. They definitely have conformed to a foreign influx of immigrants and learned their language. Third myth busted.

New York City has the second highest number of Nahuatl speakers of any city, after Mexico City. Their families, up until NAFTA, lived as corn growers. Now, with subsidized U.S. corn flooding the market, they're literally starving. So, they moved from the rural country-side to Mexico City then here to NYC. To keep from dying. Yes, without legal authorization because the *legal* influx of corn and other neo-capitalist/neo-colonial practices has left them without any other choice.

As for crime, let's be real- it's the U.S. hunger for narcotics that fuels the trade and US anti-drug laws that makes them lucrative to sell. The ancient use of coca and marihuana, btw, wasn't a problem until 1) exploited by the enslaving colonial/white elites to subdue Indians and 2) distilled, modified, and used out of its traditional context when it passed from being used for ceremonial or pragmatic reasons to recreational for non-Natives.

My Guatemalan students are here for much of the same reasons that the Mexican students are here plus attest to the continued genocide going on there perpetuated by U.S. interests. I don't have roots in this country or continent. I was brought here by the international adoption industry (trade). That industry had, until 2 years ago, also imported tens of thousands of indigenous Mayan children to feed the market for babies. Doesn't adopting out indigenous children to white families who would raise them as white sound familiar to US Indians? "Kill the Indian, Save the Man"?

I would have preferred to stay in my native Korea, speaking Korean, but US policies, all "legal", has forced English into my mouth and me to this country. I now use the privilege that this affords me to help others gain some of that privilege, too, but I know neither I, nor the vast majority of students that I teach will ever have the same level of white privilege because white supremacist attitudes and white-washed non-white people who align themselves with this ideology.

As for Canada, their policies regarding First Nations are hardly a model to be held up as one to emulate or applaud. Their immigration policies are much broader than the U.S.' as a result it has the highest immigration rate in the world, with many unauthorized immigrants there as well. Myth 4? (I never heard the "Canada policy" argument before) busted. (Source: Wikipedia)

Actually Canada brings up an interesting case in the discussion of Native people. The Eskimo/Inuit culture spans 4 countries: Russia, U.S., Canada, and Greenland (Denmark). These political boundaries imposed by Europeans clearly demonstrate the arbitrariness of them and the disregard they have for indigenous people. The same happened in the lands that are now divided by the US/Mexico border.

Let's not get caught up in what legal and what's illegal. Slavery was legal. Segregation was legal. Marriage between a white person and a non-white person was illegal. Laws are not always just. It's still legal to take people's land if the government decides it wants to. It's legal to dump toxic waste. We could go on.

These laws, borders, rhetoric, and attitudes hurt people. Immigrants coming to the US without authorization or staying here after being issued a visa (the vast majority or "illegal" immigrants, btw) actually contributes to the economy and culture. (Source: Migration Policy Institute) I hope for a reform of US immigration policy that allows the free flow of people and labor so we can live in peace and with dignity. Our history and our mythology demand it. It's the only just thing to do. Even if it does spit in the face of white supremacy and colonialism. I hope that all non-white people come to realize that it's in our best interests rather than align ourselves with people who continue to exploit our ethnic differences for their benefit. Let's not play into the ethnic antagonism that has only helped to divide and conquer us since Columbus left Italy and immigrated to Spain.

BTW, as an advocate for immigrant rights and comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) I never use the term "illegal immigrant". The community and movement uses undocumented or unauthorized. And even worse than illegal immigrant is the term illegals. That completely dehumanizes us.

The status of a person as legal or illegal is completely a matter of arbitrary chance and circumstance. Let no "American" forget that.

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