Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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The dreaded email forwards. Pictures of puppies wearing hats, drawings of angels, images of sunsets. I don’t get a lot of these emails except for the occasional prayer chain letter from my mom. But poor Brandon gets a lot of them. I think it’s because he likes computers so people think he will like any email sent to him. Usually they are pretty harmless. The ones that I can’t stand are the ones the spread ignorance and intolerance.
Brandon recently received an email forward from a person that he knows in a professional capacity. I won’t repeat the exact email but it was a joke about Mexicans that insinuated that they are all lazy and should go back to Mexico.
Let’s put aside for a moment that this man sent this email to my husband knowing full well that I’m Mexican-American.
What makes me mad is that the people who write things and forward things like this are not putting any thought into their opinion. They are not making logical arguments or good points or adding anything to the immigration debate except unfiltered xenophobia and prejudice. There are many opinions about immigration and many different solutions but calling immigrants lazy and thinking that all immigrants should be shipped back to their land is just plain silly.
For one, I would never call a group of people lazy that endure a truly dangerous journey, leave their home and sometimes their family to work back-breaking jobs while living in constant fear of deportation.
Two, can we honestly assume that immigrants do not positively impact the United States and that they all should “go back home”? My father came to the US from Mexico when he was two years old back in the 1950’s. Immigration law was not very strict back then so my grandparents and their kids were able to legally cross the border easily without problems. My father worked hard and did well in school, never joined gangs, never did drugs, and joined a high school program that taught him how to do computer programming. This led him to find some good jobs which eventually led to the company he has worked for the last 25 years. Since then he has risen in the ranks of the company and has become a boss that everyone wants to have. His style of servant leadership is a welcome change to narrow-minded, opinionated, demanding bosses that sometimes seem all too common. He has led the charge in the company to encourage the employees to become active in the community. He takes teams of his employees on cancer walks, dragon boats relays, and all other sorts of fundraisers for non-profits. He has ridden the MS 150 five times and raised tens of thousands of dollars for MS research. He is extremely active in a non-profit that takes inner-city high school kids and teaches them the skills of IT professionals, engineers, accountants, and other white-collar jobs so that they can enter the workforce with professional skills and experience. He also is very involved with a charter school that is a last-chance for students that can’t be in public schools. Girls with babies, kids that have gotten out of rehab for addictions and others like these.
I don’t think anyone would argue that my father, though a Mexican immigrant, has not been a tremendous asset to the community and has been beneficial to the US. Should he go back to Mexico?
Now what if my dad was two years old now and came to the US from Mexico today? The only way to do that would be to come illegally because there is almost no chance for a poor Mexican family to get here through legal channels. My dad, with all the potential in the world when he came to this country, is there any way that he could succeed like he has in today’s world and how we treat immigrants? Honestly, if he came to the US today someone in his family would probably have died on the journey. When they got to the US they would have lived in constant fear of deportation which would push them to the fringes of society always looking over their backs. Maybe my grandpa would have gotten picked up in the middle of the day at work by INS and deported without any way of notifying my grandma and the kids. Then what would my grandma have done with 8 kids and a husband back in Mexico who is the only one that can work? Would my dad, being the oldest boy, have been forced to drop out of high school to work and support the family? Would my dad have had the chance to live up to his potential?
True, some immigrants commit crimes but we cannot punish all immigrants because of a rotten few. There are criminals in every race, ethnicity and class of citizen, but we blame the individual criminal, not the group as a whole. By bunching all immigrants together and not taking a real look at their lives and their families we are really doing a disservice, not only to them, but to the US. How many of my dads have we have deported? How many great minds, creative thinkers, leaders in service have we sent back to their country out of fear that they will do something bad?
An email forward like this doesn’t look at the human side of immigration. It just continues to proliferate unfair assumptions, stereotypes, and misplaced fear. We need immigration reform that takes people like my father into account. People that are just looking for a chance. People that could be great if just given that chance.