A few months after my student, Azucena Rodriguez, graduated, I was still thinking about her and contacted her about doing a story and photo shoot. She happily agreed and came in to see me again with her children. When I met Fabian, Cruz, and Miranda today, it was only the second time I had met them. In the near 40 shots from our photo shoot, they huddled close to their mother and glared at me. They didn’t fully trust me but, more importantly, they wanted to protect their mother.
This is not the story that I set out to write, but it is the story that came to me.
Born in Mexico, Azucena came to the United States as a child–a Dreamer of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Though she never asked to come, she is thankful for America because she has been able to pursue a better quality of life here than in her home country. Contrary to popular opinion, Azucena gets nothing out of DACA. There are no free government aid programs that she qualifies for. All she gets out of it is the right to continue to apply for a work visa to stay in this country. That’s something that has become even more important to her as an adult since she is married with three children born in the United States.
“Even though my children are born in the United States (and citizens here), we would get kicked out and separated if the current administration ends DACA. Many families leave their kids behind so they can have a better life here,” Azucena said, “but I will not be separated from my children. I would take them with me. In Mexico, however, they would not be eligible to go to school or get any sort of health care.” –Azucena Rodriguez
What kind of life is that for an American Citizen?
When I met Fabian, Cruz, and Miranda today, it was only the second time I had met them. I tried to imagine what it was like to grow up with a mom that is always gone for school or work, a mom that the government can decide to take away in an instant because of what a piece of paper says about her. If I had to live with the constant threat of losing my mother, I would probably glare at an aristocratic-looking white woman too. If words on a paper are enough to identify what should happen to a person, then I would hope these words on this paper mean something too.
These are the faces of real people, readers. These are the faces of hard-working people that want a better life for themselves in America–the same way my European ancestors did centuries before me when they came here.
Not all illegals crossing the border came here to hurt us and NONE deserve to be kept in cages apart from their families on a non-existent wall. What we are doing is nothing less than what we did to the Japanese-Americans during WWII; those are camps, people, not cages. They were inhumane then and they are inhumane now.
Yes, we need border security, but we also need a fair path for immigrants to become citizens. Azucena grew up in America and only knows it as her home country BUT she can’t become a citizen here. As the law stands now, she has to wait for one of her own kids to turn 18 and choose to sponsor her citizenship in America. Is this what fair citizenship rules look like?
I wonder where any of us would be if our ancestors were treated like we treat the Dreamers today. Only the Native Americans can claim they sprouted from this continent and very few of us Americans can prove even a thimble-full of their blood.
“…Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! –from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
Have we forgotten who we are, America? What enemy, real or imagined, could ever inspire us to treat each other the way we treat each other now?