Immigration: A Difficult Love Story

Children Protesting

Children of the deported “have become a major voting block, and they are not going away,” the author writes. Here, children march against family separation during a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Credit: Diane Ovalle (dianeovalle.com).

It’s been a difficult and tumultuous love affair. In good times, newcomers are instrumental to the construction of the New World. They are beckoned, needed, desired. In bad times, they are the cause of all social-economic woes. They are to be ostracized, demonized, deported.

The pendulum swings: we don’t want them here; we can’t live without them.

Sometimes this epic romance plays out on a very human scale. Take the story that involved Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona. Running for Congress in 2012, the sheriff was tough on undocumented immigration—but he had a secret: he was conducting a love affair with Jose Orozco, an immigrant whose legal status remains in question.

The romance went sour, alas, and the immigrant lover alleged that the sheriff threatened to deport him if he came out with their story. Babeu came out as gay but vehemently denied the deportation threat. Orozco promptly filed a lawsuit.

What struck me most about this story is the contradictory nature of the relationship and how emblematic it is of the larger American narrative. We seek and benefit from immigrants’ cheap labor, but we don’t want to acknowledge our relationship with them. We need them; we don’t want to be associated with them. In the dark of night we crawl into bed with them, but in the morning we are still in denial.

Meg Whitman, the billionaire who ran for governor in California in 2010, announced that she wanted to “hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers.” But she apparently didn’t include herself.

The year before Whitman’s campaign, she had fired Nicky Diaz Santillan, who in a spectacular press conference revealed that she was undocumented. She had been taking care of the Whitman’s household for nearly a decade.

Santillan later testified that when she asked Whitman for help finding an immigration attorney after she was fired, Whitman allegedly told her, “You don’t know me, and I don’t know you.”

...

{{{subscriber}}}
The rest of this article is only available to subscribers and NSP members -- subscribe or join now to read the rest! We sent an email and postcard to all current members and subscribers explaining how to register for our members-only area. If you remember the username and password you created for Tikkun, click on the blue “log in” link below. If you’re already registered but have forgotten your user ID or password, go to www.tikkun.org/forgot for automated instant assistance. If you are a member or subscriber who still needs to register, email miriam@tikkun.org or call 510-644-1200 for help -- registration is easy and you only have to do it once.

Andrew Lam, editor at New America Media, is the author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres. His most recent book, Birds of Paradise Lost, a collection of short stories, was published March 1, 2013.
 

Source Citation

Lam, Andrew. How to Stop a Deportation. Tikkun 28(3): 25.

tags: Immigration, Justice & Prisons, Politics & Society, US Politics   
Tip Jar Email Bookmark and Share RSS Print
Get Tikkun by Email -- FREE

COMMENT POLICY Please read our comment policy in full here which requests civility and sticking to the topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment for any reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*