Gatopardo: Sobre “Dreamers” – Texto leído por Emiliano Ruiz Parra en la presentación del 28 de junio en la Ciudad de México

Compartimos las palabras de Emiliano Ruiz Parra, reportero dedicado al periodismo narrativo y autor de “Ovejas Negras”, sobre Dreamers: La lucha de una generación por su sueño americano que fueron leídas en la presentación del 28 de junio en la Ciudad de México.

Nos da la bienvenida a todos los mexicanos retornados y nos invita a reflexionar sobre nuestra identidad; no somos “ex dreamers” si no soñadores en México.

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Leído en la presentación de Dreamers, el 28 de junio de 2013 en la Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl de la Ciudad de México.

Existe un país en el mundo en donde no se reconoce el derecho de manifestación para los jóvenes de una minoría racial. Salir a las calles a demandar sus derechos humanos elementales es un delito tan grave que se castiga con la cárcel y el destierro. En ese país se practica una segregación racial sutil pero no menos ominosa: los jóvenes que pertenecen a las minorías étnicas no tienen derecho a acudir a la educación superior, no importa si son buenos o malos estudiantes. En ese país, los oficiales más entusiastas del apartheid encadenan a los miembros de una minoría y los confinan a campos de concentración llamados “ciudades de carpas”. En ese país muy posiblemente se construya el Muro más grande después de la Muralla China. Ese país se llama…

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America: The Land of the Free?

After what has been considered a historic moment in immigrant rights’ history, many in this movement are forced to deal with this question: “Do you support the Immigration Bill approved by the Senate?” I dare to say I am not the only one at odds with the long-awaited reform proposal. On the one hand, it opens the door to a pathway for legalization. On the other hand, its strong focus on security is a result of a misguided public debate on immigration.

There is an underclass of people currently living on the margins of society. Circumstance has pushed millions to immigrate to a country that has refused to recognize them as human beings with full rights while informally welcoming their labor and benefiting from it. A country that for decades has turned a blind eye to an undocumented status when it serves its best interest but when asked for equal treatment and fairness of a community that has been in the shadows, it has only responded by criminalizing it. It is a place where the most basic activities such as driving, attending school, and going to work have become inaccessible at best or a trigger for detention and expulsion in its harshest form.

Without reflection, in a near automatic fashion, opponents of immigration reform would respond, “It is a country of laws and they should be enforced” as a way to justify the treatment of its undocumented residents. Separating families and destroying lives that have been built for decades through deportation seem a fair punishment for such a “crime” of unlawful presence in this paradigm. If these laws we are so eager to uphold are criminalizing the most basic and essential aspects of the daily lives for over 11 million people, then isn’t it time to question whether they are working?

Under this bill, the DREAMers (undocumented youth) is the only group that sees an immediate path to permanent residency by meeting certain age and educational requirements. Perhaps the group that has received the most sympathy in this debate, as they never made a choice in living a life without legal status. Nevertheless, they along with their families have been facing the fear of loosing everything. It is such predicament that has led this vulnerable group in a position where they feel they can’t demand for fair treatment and to accept out of necessity, a flawed reform proposal known as Senate Bill 744.

Unfortunately, the parents and relatives of these DREAMers might never be able to adjust their status in a permanent manner due to the imposition of unattainable border metrics as a prerequisite in addition to strict requirements to maintain a temporary status. Family separation would continue with this Senate bill. Nonetheless, these same immigrants at risk of losing their temporary status at any moment, would still be required to pay income taxes and contribute to the American economy without receiving any public benefits like basic healthcare only available to permanent residents. This seems like one-sided deal and far from what the immigrant community has been fighting for decades.

View of the U.S. from Tijuana/San Ysidro Border
View of the U.S. from Tijuana/San Ysidro Border

On top of that of that, we have the southern border, the Berlin Wall of North America that will receive $40 billion for its militarization; A profitable enterprise for private prisons. Taxpayers will only see their public dollars go to waste in a fence that will witness an exacerbated humanitarian crisis that migrants currently face along the border region.

A security driven immigration proposal demonstrates that the public debate has been derailed by xenophobia rather than an understanding of the migration phenomenon. The criticism should also extent outside the U.S. It is irresponsible for emigrating countries such as Mexico to remain on the sidelines and watch the development of immigration policies that have distorted a human rights issue into a political negotiation gimmick. Migration is not only the concern of the host country as it should involve international dialogue, collaboration, and agreement. We do it for trade. Aren’t human beings as important?

It would be a shame that what immigration advocates refer to “comprehensive reform” would result in disappointment. Unfortunately, for an undocumented immigrant, such disappointment would be very costly as it might come in the form of a deportation. Can American do better? Only if the immigrant community demands it. The DREAMers and their movement have shown us it can be done.

Yours Truly, A Tijuana Dreamer

I’ll like to post a version of an email I sent to my friends this weekend, sharing with them (and now with you) something I am very excited about: Having my story being featured in the book Dreamers.

Dear friends,

Some of you I have known for a long time, others I have met recently since my “transition” to Mexico. More than three years have passed since, but it seems and feels as if it was yesterday when I lived in my Los Angeles hometown.

Today I was remembering my first week in Tijuana, in particular, the day I attempted to reconnect with my life in the U.S. I was on a mission to find a place with Internet access. After walking many blocks in downtown TJ, feeling disoriented, confused, and lost… there it was, a cyber café near Revolución Blvd. I reserved my spot, logged into a computer and my email account, and I started typing emails to all my friends to tell them about what had just happened – an abrupt deportation that had left me stranded in my native country I had not seen for almost 20 years.

Thanks to technology, we have been able to keep in touch. Some with more frequency, others with an occasional email or a status update in the social media world. But regardless of whether communication is constant or not, all of you have a special place in my heart and thoughts.

What has happened since? So much that I am not able to cover in one email but there is one thing I wanted to take the time to share with you. My experience of deportation is beginning to shift from being a personal tragedy to a story of the collective immigrant experience; a community in the U.S. that that continues to push and advocate for immigration reform. Instead of being one more statistic in the “Out-of-sight, Out-of-mind” list, I have the opportunity and  responsibility to be a voice for so many that may lack the resources or support to be able to share their stories of struggle.

Since I made my story public last year, I have been blessed to have many that are interested in listening and understanding the complexity and dysfunction of an immigration system that led to my forced removal. As a result, my experience will be shared to a wider audience as it is featured in the book Dreamers (Spanish Edition) by Mexican journalist Eileen Truax which will be available to the public this month, in the U.S. and Mexico.

Dreamers is a book that helps us understand the state of U.S. immigration through the experiences and voices of young undocumented immigrants. I am humbled to be included among eight courageous Dreamers who have redefined what it is to be undocumented and have led a successful movement that we hope will translate into policy changes.

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Dreamers by Eileen Truax released May 2013

Eileen Truax will be presenting the book at La Feria del Libro (Spanish Book Fair) Los Angeles at the LA Convention Center, next Saturday, May 18, 2013.

Currently, the book is only in Spanish but with a successful launch, we hope that a translation will be made available so that our stories can be shared with the English speaking community.

A border might prevent me from being there physically, but I will be there in spirit. I would love to hear from you if you happen to have an opportunity to attend.

I conclude with a note of gratitude because it is very clear to me that without you, my story would have remained a tragic one. Whether it was in the form of a call/email of encouragement, shelter and food, a visit to Tijuana, a letter of recommendation, or sharing my story with others, it all made the difference in turning it into one that is now filled with renewed hopes and dreams.

Saludos,

A Tijuana Dreamer

Published in La Prensa San Diego on May 13, 2013