“But You Don’t Look Like an Undocumented Immigrant”

This is a question I get so much that it’s right up there with ‘Make a Blues Clues/ Eiffel 65 reference after hearing my name’ also known as The Used & Abused pile. I get it. A lot.

It becomes even funnier to me after a few minutes because I realize that some of these people hardly know ANY Mexicans outside of myself. There are the Mexicans the media portrays, which do, in fact, exist: The tomato picker. The gangster. The chola. The mom who ran across the border with a brood of children. The guy who mows lawns. Pedro, Juan & Maria. They are faces, and real ones. But to make them the only faces to exist in the argument is sort of ignorant.

That’s the problem with every blanket statement in the history of blanket statements: In life, the game of ‘One of these things is not like the other’ applies to everyone. So when people meet me, a girl who uses the word ‘like’ as a crutch word, who has an unabashed love for transcendetalism, and who may or may not break out into “Somewhere Out There” from Fievel Goes West at any given moment it becomes a bit of a situation because you become something of a side show and an ‘exception’. And I’m not. I’m the norm.

These are the faces of immigrants. People like you.

Not only that, but it is a disservice to every other struggling immigrant- people like this. Or like this. Or like this.

Since when has being American been defined by ‘Being identical to me’? There’s a general overtone of that in the current conversation, an eager pointing of the differences: brown, check. Accented, check. [Insert your own limiting adjective here], check. We do a disservice to each other when we do that, because part of what makes The U.S. so amazing is that it’s a melting pot, an inclusive set of arms wide open- at least it was originally. The Statue of Liberty, symbol of the U.S. bears an inscription all but forgotten:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she 
With 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-tossed to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus 

And the most amazing thing about it all, was that when I asked “Well, who else do you know?” people always drew a blank. They knew of others, but nobody could give me names or defining characteristics. I’d be the sole representative. In spite of that, some people would not replace the image of ‘undocumented immigrant’ with my face, but rather, excused whatever  qualities I may have brought to the table and continued with their preferred preconception.  It’d be the equivalent of me choosing an Ashley from California to represent the entire nation- I can’t, and I won’t. Because it’s not healthy, it’s not realistic, and most of all it’s not true.

People are people- at the end of the day, everyone’s not the same, and yet we all are. We are all people. Christians, Atheists, African Americans, Muslims, women, men, gay, straight, young, old, rich, poor, Mexicans, Asians are boxes that we neatly organize each other into; boxes that become crutches once we fail to see beyond and simply leave the label to decide all for us. So, consider this- if someone were talking about you- and said that you were just a typical woman, man, Christian and inserted their favorite limiting factor, how much truth would they fail to ascribe to you?

To see other faces of immigration, visit Define American.

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One thought on ““But You Don’t Look Like an Undocumented Immigrant”

  1. Love it Azul! After I married Kody, my father-in-law made a comment that made me laugh. He said “I’ve never met or seen an illegal alien before.” Kody and I both laughed. Kody then let his dad know that I was an illegal up until a week before we got married. It was a shocker to him, apparently no one in the family told him about my situation or maybe he never paid any attention.

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