The Visa System Was Not Made for Brown Bodies

So I’m out of the digital shadows, for today because the times call it. I’m in a place where I don’t know what to do and when I don’t know what to do I do two things: Pray and write. I did my prayer this morning, so here is the writing part.

I’m deeply concerned and upset with #45. Over the Labor day weekend he announced that the protections of the DACA program will be rolled back so that after March those under DACA will no longer be protected from deportation. Those who apply for renewal prior to October 5 will be extended protection for 2 years but there is no guarantee what their futures hold after that. This means that if congress does not take steps to make DACA a law, millions of individuals that were brought to the United States as children will be vulnerable, many will have to seek refuge in the shadows , and some may be forced to leave the only home they’ve known their whole lives.

This is obviously an issue that is close to my heart. For many reasons. I can’t begin to explain how our immigration system is broken and puts certain ethnicities at a disadvantage. But I will try.

On Lady Liberty the statue reads:

“Give me your tired, give me your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

This quote has been used as a rallying cry for immigrants rights activists as claiming that the United States was always intended to be a welcoming place for immigrants.

The truth is our immigration system was built only to serve specific communities. When the United States wanted to push West and claim more land they opened up the flood gates so that immigrants could enter easily. Why? Because the West was already inhabited and needed bodies to fight off the “savages” in “Indian country”.

These indigenous communities consisted of already displaced peoples thanks to the broken treaty promises, pillaging and killing of Native Americans all across the colonial 13 states. There were also nomadic communities living out west, some of whom traveled between what is now the United States and Mexico. It’s obvious to me why someone of an American Indian Tribe and someone from Mexican descent can have many similar facial features.

 

In the 1940’s there was the Bracero program. For those unfamiliar with it, it was a period in the United States when temporary visas were given to Mexicans, primarily men,to work the fields and create fertile land that now benefits most of California, California being the main producer of produce in the United States outside of Mexico. Most of these men were promised fair wages, good housing and humane treatment. The reality is that many times once they crossed into foreign land, the employers who they worked for rescinded many of those promises. Obviously after the program ended the men were required to leave, unable to benefit from the land that they had sowed.

During the Hoover Era, anyone with a Mexican sounding name was at risk for deportation. Whether you were legal or not, if your name was Lopez or Hernandez and you happened to be on one of the rosters they were happening to be looking at that day, you were out. It’s said that 60% of those deported were US citizens.

Similarly before Cesar Chavez, there were farm workers that protested the inhumane conditions in which they worked. At times employers would call ICE and say that illegal immigrants were congregating in front of their business and would not allow the workers to come in and there would be an immigration swoop of everyone, those who were citizens, had legal paperwork and those who did not. Immigration didn’t care to check.

Don’t get me started on California’s practice to sterilize Latina women without their consent. This practice lasted 70 years. California desperately wanted to get rid of brown bodies.

Throughout history there has been a system of quotas. Latin Americans because our skin is brown (we have light skinned Latinos but stick with me), our hair is dark and we speak a different language have historically never been able to enter into the United States as easily as someone who comes from France for example.

Even to this day there is more leniency and opportunities for someone from a European country to enter the United States than it is from all of Central and South America combined. This is true even if the person looking to enter is coming for a special event, say a relatives weeding. Don’t believe me? Check the U.S. Visa website.

So when someone says, Why don’t they just come here legally. It’s because the immigration system was never meant for Brown bodies to inhabit the United States. We have historically and systematically have had the door closed on us. This recent development is another door shut another time that the United States has screamed “We Do Not Want You Here”.

BUT

Our numbers are strong, there are more of us willing and able to speak out.

So I lied. When I said I don’t know what to do. I know exactly what I need to do. I need to pick up my phone and call Rep Huizenga and write him even if he won’t listen. I need to write and call Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and encourage them to fight for a law that will protect DACA recipients.

The visa system was not made for brown bodies. But it is time that that changes.Because those are my friends whose futures are on the line. Friends that will be doctors, are musicians, are writers and dancers, they are business owners and employ others, and all are hard workers. I know exactly what I need to do. Do you?

 

 

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