I like to tease Mack about befriending me only for this blog. He is, I think y’all know, something of a rabble-rouser who’s been involved with TIRRC and TAP and this and that. He’s the kind of guy that gets invited to Bob Tuke’s house and gets called by the sheriff and the local pastor when they’re about to go at it over folks sitting in jail. I tease him about being the lone Chicano (in the political sense of the word) in our state*. But anyway, in his office, hanging on a corkboard, is a list of things a group can do to advance their cause, a list he wrote up for some alphabet-soup of a group along the way and on that list is (and I’m paraphrasing) “befriend a local prominent blogger and make them understand the urgency of your cause.”
You can immediately, I think, understand why I have to tease him about that. It’s not that I didn’t think the way we treat immigrants in this country, and specifically in this state, wasn’t a problem, it’s just that I didn’t get the true scope of the problem until he befriended me, set out on a mission to make sure everyone knew I was a “prominent blogger” and then made me understand the urgency of his cause. I doubt even now that I have a sense of the true scope of the problem.
But when Mack sat a small group of us down with Claudia Nunez, who was on the verge of being deported to a country her whole family had fled (and where people with families still in the US are regularly kidnapped and tortured in order to extort money out of their families here) over her just fucking up some paperwork, or when he told me about his friend Maria, who thought that a notario in the US, who assured her that for a few thousand dollars he could assure her citizenship, was a lawyer just the same as a notario in Mexico and who lost her life savings to him and had no one she felt she could report it to, for fear of being deported, when I hear about those things, I feel like I’m hearing about a very small tip of an enormous humanitarian crisis.
People are suffering, tremendously, just to stay here. I’d like to ease suffering, to move you to also help ease suffering.
But I am not the best person to write to you about immigration. I don’t know as much as I should know about it. I’m at a place in my life where I’m completely grossed out by the glee with which so many Americans approach the possibility of getting to punish someone, anyone, in a way that will increase their suffering and so I don’t have a lot of patience for talking about what criminals these people are and how sending them back to where they came from is what they deserve. About how not allowing them to go to college is what they deserve. About how forbidding them from speaking anything but English is what they deserve. About how pulling them over and running their immigration status because they’re brown is what they deserve. About how not granting them bail, even for minor crimes is what they deserve. About how taking the money they earned here from them is what they deserve. About how refusing to administer a driving test in anything other than English is what they deserve. About how calling the police on their employers for hiring them is what they deserve. About how making it a crime to hire them over a citizen is what they deserve.**
I have no patience for it and I resent that there’s this assumption that I’m supposed to try to compromise with your cruelty in order to come up with a “solution” to the immigration “problem.”
But, the truth is, I’m not sure what other tack to take.
Mack and I were talking about it this morning, and I think it’s fair to characterize his position as being much different than mine. I think he thinks it’s going to take this suffering and more to get people to change their minds–that it’s going to take folks losing their nurseries or not having anyone to help them clean up after a tornado or businesses leaving or refusing to come here in order to get people to realize that, in their efforts to hurt others, they’re also hurting themselves.
Maybe this is true. It probably is true.
But it’s so stupid it almost drives me to despair.
*At least for now. But I’m willing to lay money on it that there are young folks, citizen kids of the folks we’ve been treating like shit, who are pissed and who are going to come out swinging, when they get a little older and get organized.
**All legislation that was before the Tennesseee Legislature this year.