Go back where you came from

Go back where you came from

“Get out of my country. This is America.”

“We speak only English here.”

“Go back where you came from.”

I hear many voices speaking into the immigration debate void, many of them learning their facts on TV. From personal experience, I’ve surmised most people don’t want to talk with any sort of frankness concerning immigration policies because when it comes down to it, TV facts aren’t the same as real ones.

I notice when I talk immigration with someone on whose views I differ with, they usually tell me anyone undocumented is a criminal — nothing else matters in their view. Someone’s humanity is far more important than repeating a false, derogatory soundbite.

Many immigrants are avid entrepreneurs, starting businesses from scratch. They don’t need much start-up because what they have is the drive to succeed and do in a country that they see as a starting point. They need their hands and an idea. They work long hours scraping money together for their families.

Being “illegal” (and from here on out I will use the word undocumented because no human is illegal) seems to be a mortal sin that can never be overcome.

Over the years many have wanted to hear our story, but when it gets squishy, they get uncomfortable. My immigration story is a simple one: I met a man and fell in love. He was undocumented. We planned a wedding, he got a visa and we got married.

Was George someone to be hated before his visa and someone to be loved after? If you read my book, you have heard his story of crossing into the United States. The second part, the one I haven’t written yet, is a coming possibility.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you our situation was easy. It took a meeting with immigration officials in Cleveland, to the granting of a fiancée visa, to living in Mexico for nine months and retrieving documents to receive the visa, endless appointments at the American Embassy in Mexico City, having to prove our love (Have you ever had to prove your love to enter a country?) through pictures and letters and words of undying devotion for each other, to the stamping of a freshly minted passport that led us back to the states and marriage. The immigration process never really ends, even today.

Our immigration system needs fixed. It should be streamlined and simple. No one should have to wait 20 years to find out whether they’ll be given a visa. We have too much room here for that to be the case. My daughter and her husband have gone through the fiancée visa process. They are now working and thriving in Virginia, but his mom and dad still living in Kabul, Afghanistan have been rejected by our system time and time again. Several of his uncles and their families have been accepted as they worked for the U.S. military during our time there.

We need to embrace our migrant culture and give work visas more plentifully to get the jobs done that need done. We need less red tape and more openness, less fear and more understanding. We must welcome immigrants that bring to our big American table something to offer as we expand the mosaic that is us. We shouldn’t cringe with outrage when another language is spoken.

There is a driving need burning underneath right and wrong that you can’t extinguish. We must stop mainlining fear of others and learn what the immigration process means to so many. We should look in from another perspective. We should stop looking at immigration, legal or undocumented, as invasion (we hear those words, rest assured) because most of you know someone who has benefited from it. Once you know someone’s story, you can’t unknow it.

I know this has all been said before. I’m a complicated woman that has lived a simple love story and has a wealth of knowledge on immigration because it became part of me. There is so much to be learned if we could separate the facts from the fiction. But that will only happen when the false narrative of “criminals” and fear is set down and we stop gorging on untrue facts like the most delectable of appetizers.

Until then we are at a standstill.

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees based in Holmes County. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at www.tinyurl.com/Tonolives or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at junkbabe68@gmail.com.

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