As I hear the news of the Obama administration seeking to take executive action on immigration reform, I remember the poetic words of Langston Hughes:
For months now Obama has been postponing the action that he promised to the millions of people who live undocumented in this country. In many ways disillusioned by the broken promises that have been repeated over and over again by politicians, I have found myself experiencing the “festering like a sore”, becoming cynical and at times feeling hopeless. This “dream” that has brought so many immigrants to this country, to seek safety, to find a better life for families may now have a possibility to be lived out, without fear.
I think of the dream that led my father to this country over forty years ago, braving desert and unknown conditions, to seek a better life. I had the fortune of being born on this side of the border, and have been afforded incredible opportunities to study, to learn, to have my feet planted in two worlds, being both Mexican and American. So many who will have the opportunity to take advantage of this new executive action came with similar hopes and dreams for their children. The accomplishments and successes that my generation contributes to this nation is a result of the dreams of my parents, and so many others who have come before us.
For so many, this dream is turning into a nightmare. The responses to the “urgent humanitarian situation” of unaccompanied minors who were fleeing violence in Central America, has been largely punitive and harsh measures to “secure” our borders. This humanitarian crisis has been dealt with more as an administrative crisis. The challenges and dangers that continue to cause the influx of migrants traveling dangerous routes north, are not the issues that our United States policies are seeking to address.
As a nation we depend on the 11 million people who live undocumented in the States. They are the ones who clean our offices, mow our lawns, they cook our food, park our cars and watch our children. It is their dreams that we as a nation have continued to defer. The rhetoric of the newly elected congress seeks to threaten Obama’s taking this executive action, calling it “a big mistake”, and that it will “poison the well”. The punitive and xenophobic immigration policies that have sought to criminalize those who have come here to live out these dreams, have already placed them in a well. This well where dreams go rotten like meat, and sag like heavy loads.
It is time to let these dreams be lived; for promises to be completed. It is time that we as a nation recognize that from our founding as a nation, we have always been a nation of immigrants, and will always be a nation of immigrants. My hope is that we as a nation might truly be able to live out the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries sheWith silent lips. “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!”