In the words of Arthur Miller, “When today fails to offer a justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing”.
Being an undocumented immigrant brought to the United States as a kid, such has been my pursuit. In an immigrant society which has, by definition, chosen to reject the past; faith in the future is not a matter of choice. The details of how I got to the United States are irrelevant at this point. What matters to me is that I began to have faith in the “future” shortly after graduating from High School.
When I found that I could not get a Driver’s License or apply to certain jobs, I began focusing on the perfect “future.” Upon realizing that I was not like my lab partners, my soccer teammates or even some of my close friends, I did not have a social security number. This handicap forced me to be focused and to understand that I could not mess up in any way. I believed that if I studied and worked hard, lived a righteous life and helped others, I would earn the “unalienable” right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As time has progressed, I sense that such promise, such dream, such “grail” may not correspond to me. It may not belong to individuals like me because we are undocumented immigrants.
For over 13 years, I have watched politicians squander opportunities to give people like Jose Antonio, Balal, Silvia or me a chance to achieve and to contribute. First it was 9/11, and then it was the threat of terrorism and more recently, unemployment and economic woes; all justifiable reasons for concern and urgency. However, I fail to understand how giving us a chance interferes with any solution to these challenges.
Now 30 years old, having worked odd jobs to pay for college, having volunteered to mentor young students and having labored to improve my community, I stand abreast the 10% in the unemployment lines or the 99% in Zuccotti Park. The difference is I stand alone, without rights, without advocates, without a voice in congress and without lobbyist to plea my case. Sadly, I stand without an opportunity to be part of the solution. For years, politicians often compare the character and moral fiber of people in my situation with those of criminals, outlaws and even terrorists. The rhetoric used when referring to immigrants is demotivating and after many years of false promises and empty discourse, hope, the light at the end of the tunnel, seems so distant and dim.
When I read Jose Antonio’s essay and found more about his story I found a bit of solace. In his words, I was able to identify the same challenges and frustrations I have endured. In his words, I felt that his worry is not about what we have endured in our past, but seeing how the time stretches deeper and deeper into uncertainty along with our hopes and dreams. This is very grueling and demoralizing and one has to fight everyday to find a grain of hope and to keep the hope alive. Most individuals in my situation understand the current state of the economy. We see what people across America are going through and more importantly I am sure we don’t want to be a burden to anyone. All we are asking for is an opportunity to be part of the solution. That plea is what I have been living and breathing the past 17 years.