Three Immigrants In My Family, And Each Has A Different Legal Status
It’s annoying, of course, to hear some people in my own family described as “illegals. These are the days when fear-mongering has put tear gas in the eyes of babes.
But it is true that some people went through an arduous process, some did not, and some, almost magically — like my family member number one — just became Americans.
“Illegal” family member number one:
Family member number one came across the border when she was just three years old. She grew up and worked at migrant farm work — mostly in Washington state — for years. She later became a maid, put herself through college, got a teaching degree, married, and discovered she was “illegal” only when she went to join the armed forces.
This is not just a hard-working person, she worked two jobs most of her life. She traveled the world. Paid lots of taxes of every kind there is. She had children. She volunteered for charities. She taught all of us the true generosity of love and inclusion. She eventually started her own business and over the course of three decades earned more than one million dollars.
Family member number two
Family member number two was brought to the USA East coast at approximately age seven. The family moved around the United States from there, living in Texas, and the then settling in Georgia. He completed High School, and he worked different jobs. He obtained a green card. He eventually married a US citizen. They had two children. Although the finer points of requirements are quite complex, it is my understanding that upon marrying a United States citizen the path toward naturalization has fewer obstacles to overcome. After starting their own company, he and his ex are now divorced. As to how this impacts citizenship, (if at all), if you know of any consequence, please let me know the ramifications. So far as actual people I have ever met, people only marry for a “green card,” then quickly divorce, in fiction and in television and movies. But our family guy, here, has had his green card now, for over fifty years.
Family member number three
Also brought to the USA at a young age, number three grew up in upper New York State, Connecticut, and Texas. He worked through high school and bought his first house at a relatively young age. He qualified for a scholarship at Columbia University, but lacked the funds to get there. He took some university courses, learned computer programming, and moved to the Pacific Northwest. He, like the two before him, always had gainful employment. Paid taxes. Worked hard. But, in only his case of these three, did he apply for naturalization.
The naturalization test required him to display knowledge of US history, our governing balance of powers, (The very ones under threat by those who comprehend neither) a verbal interview, and an oath to defend the constitution of the USA. After about nine months, a new citizen was born from the womb of Lady Liberty.
These three family members are extraordinarily close to my heart. The three-year-old brought as a child from her birthplace in British Columbia, is better known as gramma. She was of the “greatest generation” and only when she applied to join the Woman’s Army Corps, the WACS, did she realize she was considered Canadian, and therefore a non-citizen. She is by far, the toughest, kindest, and strongest broad I have ever met in my entire life. She eventually had six children and six grandchildren. She married into the military, and had two sons who became soldiers serving the USA. She taught school for over fifty years, lived in occupied Japan and Germany, saw all of Europe and much of The Asia Pacific. Most important of all, she taught me that nature, and all living beings, deserve respect, compassion and love. Always.
Was she white? Yeah, I guess she was. I am also guessing that in that this made her pathway easier. Nevertheless, her mother was a single mom with five (surviving) kids living in abject poverty that no one today can truly grasp. During the great depression, only guts and gumption kept food on the table; that, and picking crops.
Family member number two never has, and likely never will be a legal citizen. It is unclear why he never tried, and remains to this day “illegal” with his 50 plus years on his Green Card. My guess is, that being that his family came from England, being white — just like in gramma’s case — brought enormous privilege. Having the slightest British accent is probably more of an advantage than a hindrance. People of color who immigrate here, but who don’t speak English as their first language are routinely discriminated against.
Family member number three is a fully naturalized citizen of these (always Great already, but needing of constant upgrade) United States of America. He is a farmer now, a conservationist and a wildlife volunteer. He can’t seem to stop computer programming even though he is semi-retired. I became engaged to him in British Columbia, but no problem, I was never considered an anchor baby, despite all the Canadian origins of our family, and he was already a citizen by then.
Immigration has been on my mind, for many years now. But, as I understand it, none of the aforementioned “illegals” has never had the slightest problem because of it. (Unless you are a Canadian teen-age woman trying to join the US army).
This tells me that being from another place is not at all a really huge deal unless you are branded as “other.” Truly sad, when we admit that only white people have historically swept in by the thousands, occupied native lands, and established borders by incidental world power status, wholly configured borders, and time frame.
Equality as a way to out of our mutual mire
Our family code dictates that all Earth life — including non-human lives — are sacred, and that all humanity should be offered a welcoming path to dedicated, contributing, citizenship.
As an Ecopsychologist, I am both terrified, and optimistic. I’m afraid that hate will escalate fear-mongering into world war, resulting in millions of climate refugees. Mexico City has escalating water shortages. Africa, India, and parts of the middle east have not achieved prosperity, and/or gender equality, which makes women and children the most vulnerable victims of ourselves.
Our family fears that in our inability to take the necessary diversity life needs to cope with climate change, and destruction of biodiversity, we will drive even more wars, famines, disasters, plagues and destruction.
But, I am optimistic also, because millions of people wake up daily as they sense the danger in the smoky air, seizing, icy, cold snaps, and flooding coastlines. Not only are we waking up, we are calling out injustice. To my mind, equality is crucial to solving our mutual mire. Until men and women, people of color, and any who are “others” have a fair opportunity, can we rest. Only when the majority are legal and free, can we all pull together for safety.
For one tiny floating dust mote in space, we sure are full of our notions of who matters and who does not. With as many all on board as we can honor fairly can our cooperative efforts triumph.
I just hope in the period of my lifetime, this should come to pass, as diversity is Nature’s number one survival advantage.