Blog Topic Wrap-up

This being the last paper, I wanted to talk about immigration issues that are currently in the news. It’s always good to be informed of what is going on around us, so here’s your opportunity!

Just yesterday, April 13th, our state passed a bill, SB 1070 that would seriously crack down on undocumented immigrants in our state. Not only would we be asked our nationality at the Border Patrol checkpoints around the state, we would also be asked by law enforcement officers that suspect that we’re “not from here”. NICE. So now… my very Mexican looking parents will be asked, I’m sure I’ll be asked, but my Mexican-American husband won’t because of his green/grey eyes. Good thing my daughter also looks “white”…**sarcastic smile**.

Okay….so what I want to ask our WONDERFUL legislators is: what physical characteristics, or whatever else could produce suspicion, are you placing as a guideline to what is considered “suspicious”? I really hope there’s a Mexican or “foreign” looking legislator that gets stopped by the police and gets asked his/her nationality. Wait…there is! Republican Olivia Cajero Bedford looks like a Mexican Tia! Catch her outside her power-suit and watchale! The cops will be on her like flies…especially if they see her driving a new BMW or whatever legislators drive. Here’s another guy, Democratic Christopher Deschene. He’s Native American, and looks like the kind of guy that would be against this bill, but sorry buddy, your peers allowed that cop to ask you “Where are you from, son?” Poor guy looks more foreign than any of my Mexican cousins. There’s a few other legislators who look Mexican enough to be asked this question, if law enforcement is going to be basing their “suspicions” on physical characteristics. I’m not narrow-minded and think that this will only affect Mexican-American, so I looked for legislators that appeared other-than-Mexican-but-still-“foreign”. There’s one African-American, but that’s about it. I clicked on ALL the names of our legislators on their Member webpage and only found ONE guy. I know that there aren’t many African-Americans in our state but that still seems to be unbalanced, but that’s a whole other issue. I’m against this bill because this seems like a door that is opening up to unfair prejudice and stereotyping that will affect many of Arizona’s citizens. I’m afraid that the way that I looked at legislators’ appearance is going to be the way that law enforcement looks at us.

There is more to this Immigration bill …like jail time and fines from $500-$2500 dollars for not having proof of legal status. Also, this bill would prohibit any Arizona city from declaring themselves a sanctuary city. The bill is also cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants and people who drive with undocumented immigrants in their vehicles.

So my fellow Arizonans, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to this bill. From what I understand, changes will be made in the Arizona senate, then these changes will be voted on before Governor Jan Brewer (Rep) gets to sign it. Here’s a website where you can sign a petition against this bill, you can even become their fan on Facebook to get the latest news. There’s many many many news clips about this, since it has made national and international headlines. Way to go Arizona…just the reputation that we needed. Here is one of them where Geraldo Rivera talks to Sheriff Joe Arpaio about this issue:


My Family’s Migration Story

I’ve always loved hearing stories about my parent’s childhood and L.B.V. (Life Before Vanessa). Now as they grow older, I feel a need to preserve these stories that I’ll one day tell my daughter. I visited my parents in Douglas this past Saturday, and somehow my Dad and I got to talking about immigration.  By immigrating to the U.S., my parents completely changed their children’s lives. Would I have been similar to who I am today? Would I have still loved reading, watching movies, plays, and studying psychology? Our environment molds us, so who would I have been in Allende, Nuevo Leon? It’s kind of eerie to think how close I was to being this other completely different person.

My Mom's parents- By living in Arizona, we missed the opportunity to grow up with grandparents close by.

It would have been wonderful seeing my grandparents on a daily basis and growing up with my cousins. Soon after I was old enough to travel on my own to visit more often, three of my grandparents passed away. It’s only when I think about them that I feel regret about my parent’s decision to move so far away. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have met and married my husband, or had my daughter!

Nogales 1967- My dad, the 5th Beatles member. 🙂

My dad moved Nogales Sonora at the tender of age of 17 years on January 15, 1967, to teach at a night technical school. From 5-10 pm, he taught adults and young people how to fix electronics. For the first nine months, he did not receive any wages, and had to live off of savings and also borrowed money from my Abuelo. To make ends meet before he received his first, and quite big, paycheck, he worked at a electronic repair shop. When he received his first check, most of it went to my Abuelo.

The school my Dad taught at, when first moving to Nogales, Sonora.

During these early years in Nogales, before returning to marry my Mom in Allende, my Dad inquired at the U.S. Consulate about immigration. He was told that he simply needed to provide them with a letter of proof of employment, and he would be ready to receive naturalization papers. He declined at that point since he did not want to give up his good-paying teaching job. After working in Nogales for a couple of years, he returned to Allende, on one of his visits, with the purpose of getting married. My Mom then joined him after marrying in November of 1969. My eldest sister was born on January of 1971, then my second sister was born on 1972. The birth of my second-eldest sister was the key to my parent’s immigration. Since she was born in Nogales Arizona, my parents were able to use her citizenship as a means to receive theirs. The law changed soon after they became citizens, making parents wait until their U.S.-born children reach adulthood before using them as a means of receiving citizenship.

Above: My 2nd eldest sister. Below: Old Tucson 1973/74- Mom, Dad and two eldest sisters

In 1973, one year after she was born, they applied for legal residency, and received it after two months. After two years of additional waiting, they received their citizenship. At this point of time, they were living in Douglas, at the Hidden Valley trailer park. My dad continued to work on the Mexico side of the border, now as a quality control manager at a factory in Agua Prieta. After receiving citizenship, they bought land to build a home in McNeal, close to Douglas, and lived there while having two more daughters.

1979- My sisters outside the McNeal house

I was born a couple of years after my family had moved back to Douglas in 1983 to build a house closer to the border. My parents live in the same house to this day.

Our parent’s move away from Nuevo Leon and immigration to the United States was impacting to our family since we had resided in the same area for generations.

My paternal Great-Great-Grandfather Ines (2nd on Left) and his daughter my Great-Grandmother Sabitas (1st on Right)

Changing nationalities requires families to adopt different customs, which often makes old customs disappear. This change in customs allowed my parents to step out of the Catholic church and into Christian beliefs. Being Catholic is often synonymous with being Mexican. Our parent’s move also forced our nuclear family out of the community that the rest of our relatives live in. I’m sure it was difficult for my Mom to raise five children without any family around. Now, as our own family has grown to twenty members (parents, sisters, brother-in-laws, nieces and nephews), we have created our own family community here in Arizona. Visiting Allende is still important to me, but the void of our homeland is being replaced by the growth of my own family here.

Dedicado a Papi y Mami.

Why did the migrant worker cross the fence? (no…this isn’t an inappropriate joke)

After visiting Naco to gather information for my last blog, it was my intention to go every time a blog was due. This past weekend though, I decided to go to Douglas with my sister to visit my parents and do some shopping in Agua Prieta. Sorry blog, family comes first! While trying to think about an alternative blog subject, it occurred to me to research the possible reasons why people decide to enter the United States illegally. If there was no need to leave their homeland, then I believe people wouldn’t make the dangerous decision to risk their lives in a desperate attempt to find work. When issues of immigration are brought up, I never hear about steps that are being taken in poverty-stricken countries to stop the need for illegal immigration to happen in the first place. I tried looking up articles on Google News that related to possible solutions, but couldn’t find any.

I started looking for answers in Mexico. Since Latin-Americans usually resemble each other, and speak Spanish, everyone is often mistakenly categorized as a Mexican. This mistaken identity often leads to the generalization that Mexicans are the only ones crossing the border. It does not help that my fellow-Mexicans do, in fact, make up the largest amount of illegal immigrants. In a Department of Homeland Security report on Illegal Immigrants residing in the U.S., the population of Mexican illegal immigrants in 2006 is reported as 6,570,000. Next in line are people from El Salvador, coming in at 510,000. The difference between the largest two groups of illegal immigrants is quite large: 6,060,000.

So now we know that A LOT of Mexican come to the U.S. and reside here illegally. But why? Let’s start with my answer: Credit. That’s it. One word. Google it! You’ll get over 500 Million results! People have an image of Americans as all driving nice cars, wearing nice clothes, and living in nice homes. What not everyone may realize however, is that all of the above was possibly acquired through credit. Cars: credit. Clothes: credit. Really, if Americans all lived in homes that were truly their own, then our neighborhoods would be much more modest. Forget dens, three-car garages and breakfast nooks. Who fully owns their homes these days?! It’s all about the mortgage baby! If you Google “mortgage lenders” for the Tucson area, you get over 700 results! Our family in Mexico might not all have “nice” houses, but at least they can’t be repossessed by credit lenders. With the Americanization of Mexico’s cities I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that mortgage’s are now being used more commonly in Mexico. Even if credit is used to purchase a home, it can be clearly seen that is not an option for everyone. Shelter is very important to us as humans, and if someone is stuck in an impoverished position that doesn’t allow them to provide a decent home for their family, then I can see why crossing the border would be the answer. Working in the United States, however low-paying the job, cannot be worse than earning the Mexican minimum wage. The minimum wage link lists many professions and their set salary, it’s actually really interesting to see how little people earn, even in a “professional” job (I’m sorry it’s in Spanish though. I only trusted the information that came straight from the Mexican government) The minimum wage for a non-professional is 57.46 pesos, or about $4.50 per DAY! Try buying food and clothes, much less a decent house with those paychecks!

So if I haven’t made it clear enough:

Why did the migrant worker cross the fence?

Because he/she had a false perception about the U.S.A.

A rainy drive to Naco, Sonora…

A wonderful coincidence occurred last Tuesday! Like I had mentioned in my previous blog, I emailed a humanitarian aid organization based out of Tucson to get more information and possibly volunteer. Unfortunately, they haven’t replied yet. This is where my wonderful coincidence comes in! During our weekly Bible study, a friend talked to our group about an organization that assists migrants on which a classmate had given her a pamphlet. I practically jumped off the sofa! She wanted to go check it out, and take some donations, but had never been to Naco, Sonora. Since I’ve been there a few times (dentist), we planned to go together.

Saturday might have not been the greatest day to go, because of the weather and my car’s gears kept on giving out, but we made it to and from Naco safely. Naco is tiny, but I had no idea where we were going, so I asked the Mexican border officer where the Migrant Resource Center was located. He said it was next to the Red Cross. It wasn’t next to the Red Cross. “Next to” means to me “next door”. The Center was on the block “next to” the Red Cross. We found it after asking someone else. The older man laughed a little when he told us it was around the corner. That’s how small Naco is. People chuckle when you ask for directions. We got down and looked around. Did I mention it was really cold today? The place looked abandoned, but after looking inside a glass door, I saw men sitting around a small room. After unloading, we went inside and sat down. The Center is small for all the work they do, throughout the previous day they had received 72 migrants. When you enter, there’s a small sofa (more like a long bench) and a few chairs, and a desk. Beyond that are shelves with clothing, and at the end is the small kitchen. The walls are covered in posters, both handwritten and printed. My favorite was one handwritten poster that listed the “myths” about the United States. I’ll give you the list on the next blog.

We talked to the Center’s employee about what he does, what the organization is all about, and what kinds of situations the migrants find themselves in. Gilberto’s salary is taken from donations to the Center, since the Mexican government doesn’t finance this organization. The only financial aid that the government provides is for the Mexican migrant’s bus fare home. They either pay for it entirely or partially, based on the person’s needs. Gilberto maintains organized the data they collect from the migrants. This data is used to create statistics on men, women and children crossing the border. He also gathers any reports of abusive behavior (U.S. Border Patrol towards migrant) and files them with the Mexican consulate.  Gilberto told us that he lives at the migrant shelter along with his wife and children. His wife maintains it, while he works at the Center, where work days end at 8:00 pm. Needless to say, this is a family effort.

The following video is an entire episode from the show “30 Days”. I’ve recently started watching this show on Netflix, and after many episodes it finally hit me: many themes being examined are directly connected with Community Psychology! What really got to me with this episode was that I related with Frank, the man living with the Gonzalez family for a month. Even though I’m not part of the Minutemen group, actually I’m not comfortable with their ideas and actions, I do think that it’s not correct to cross the border illegally. I would like to see a dramatic simplification of the immigration process so that my fellow Mexicans can become Mexican-Americans if they desire to. I believe that America is a country for immigrants, and making it difficult for people to become Americans is ridiculous. After watching this episode, and visiting the Center made me feel uncomfortable with my new found ideas. I call them new found because I’ve just started really thinking about this subject instead of just going with the flow. I’m trying to tell myself that I’m not a traitor for thinking that migrants are acting illegally by crossing the border. I feel a strong desire to volunteer at the Center, not because of political reasons, but to provide humanitarian aid. I hope you take time to watch the episode!

Since we’re here and all let’s…

…discuss illegal immigration. Why not?! I’m a first-generation Mexican-American. Okay, so my parents didn’t swim across the Rio Grande or walk across the unforgiving desserts of the Sonora-Arizona border, but I’m still pretty opinionated about the social problems surrounding this topic. Border fences separate communities and families that formed when nothing lay between them but an invisible line, such as the O’ odham. In Arizona we have a few towns that grew side by side, sister towns like Douglas and Agua Prieta, Naco Arizona and Naco Sonora, Nogales Arizona and Nogales Sonora.  Families who live on opposite sides of the border are forcibly cut out from each other’s lives by government technicalities.

I know it’s not realistic to think that not having a border dividing the two countries would be better. I realize that in some ways it’s necessary. Preventing criminal activities is a good reason to have a fence up. After all, most of us have a fence around our yard. That doesn’t meant that we require our neighbors to fill out paperwork and apply for permits, just to come in and say hello. That’s absurd. Isn’t there a better way of handling this whole immigration issue? I wonder how they do it in Europe…do European countries have similar immigration systems as the United States? While I was researching about organizations that provide water and food to immigrants, my husband, of course, gave me his opinion. “…but they’re doing something wrong [in crossing the border illegally]”. Okay, so he’s got a point, but after discussing it, we concluded that yes, they are coming illegally, but they don’t have the resources to do  it legally. It’s hard to imagine being in such a position. I’m not talking about being short on cash until your next paycheck. I’m talking about a situation where you don’t have a better option for your family but to search for work in another country.

For this blog, I would like to further research one organization in particular. Here and here are other similar organizations that provide immigrants with life-saving assistance. I emailed a contact from the first organization, but am waiting for a reply. I’m hoping to tag along on a trip to the dessert with them. I was uncertain if I was going to stick to one subject, or drift into another, but it seems like I’ll have plenty to talk about with illegal immigration. The following video is somewhat monotone, but really interesting. I recommend jumping to around 5:00 into the video. You gotta love the kittens!