Monday, May 01, 2006

Catching My Breath In Connecticut

As several of you know, last Friday was not one of my finest moments. Thank you to Prue, Tracy, and Gypsy for your sensitive words of wisdom. Though I deleted the post, I saved the comments, and I'm still thinking about them. Like Gypsy, I think I have been niche-less for the last few years, and it's a precarious position to be in. Sometimes, I handle it with grace. Sometimes, not so much.

On Saturday, I took a deep breath, pulled myself together, and left the city to spend the weekend with Simone and her family. Even before leaving the city, I did something I'm still proud of: I went to the 9:30 am pilates class in the gym near my place. My body is still sore from the class, so you know it was a good one. I liked the teacher, and I think I might try to attend the class regularly. We shall see.

Connecticut was wonderful for many reasons. It was wonderful to see people that I hadn't seen for many years, to remember pieces of myself that I hadn't thought about for a while, and to share the experience with Simone. It was also wonderful to be out in the sunshine and surrounded by blue sky and trees. It was a beautiful weekend. Clearly, I don't get out to Central Park enough because throughout the weekend I kept feeling like I had just escaped from a tense concrete wasteland. Which - despite my love of New York - is basically true.

On Sunday afternoon, I got a ride back with the neighbor of my friend Simone. She was a pleasant woman, very hospitable, and very kind to drive me back to the city and spare me from taking the bus. During our drive into the city, the conversation turned to asylum and immigrants' rights after I had told her that I do a lot of pro bono asylum work at my firm and that I'm interested in that area of the law. Do you know what this seemingly sweet, seemingly liberal lady then said to me?

She asked whether my asylum clients generally just want to come to the United States because of all the opportunities there, or whether they have actually suffered any persecution. I responded - exceedingly calmly - by sharing with her stories of Tibetans imprisoned, beaten, and tortured, Ivorian women raped by Ivorian soldiers, and Pakistani girls fearing being sold into prostitution. She seemed to agree that those were situations of "actual" persecution, but seemed convinced that there was a large problem with immigrants crying "asylum" when really they just wanted "a better life." (The nerve of them).

On immigrants' rights she said, "Well, of course it's important that we let only the right immigrants into our country." She said "we" and "our" like she thought I was in on it with her, and suggested that the U.S. should forbid immigrants from sending money home to their families. Apart from the complete lack of compassion of that policy, and the problems with enforcement, she also seemed oblivious to the Constitutional implications. Other than Fox News, and my conservative law school classmates, it's been a while since I encountered attitudes like that. It was bizarre.

My Dad's an immigrant and a proud one, and technically, I am too. I was born in Sweden to a Swedish dad and an American mom and lived there 'til I was 6 or 7. That's perhaps part of the reason I support rights for immigrants.

A bigger reason is that I believe that everyone deserves a fair chance. You know, the whole actualization of the equal rights concept that this great country of ours was supposedly founded upon (despite what Scalia and Thomas would have you believe).

6 comments:

Wood said...

Sounds like an escape to connecticut was just what you needed. Thinking of you, hope all is well.

Tracy said...

Hey, Buttercup,

Glad you had a good weekend. Today was a big day for immigrants in LA. I'm sure you saw the news. I can't help but to think that everyone in this country except for Native Americans are here because either they or their ancestors came to seek a better life. I'm sure glad they let my ancestors in!

Ally Bean said...

"Well, of course it's important that we let only the right immigrants into our country."

Welcome to my world. Most of the people around me lack any perspective-- like remembering that at some point their ancestors were immigrants. And despite what is said about the midwest to the contrary, most of the people here aren't very kind to anyone not like them.

They don't want others to have a fair chance. And Fox news helps them feel smug and superior about this attitude. It's very sad.

Bean said...

I disagree...If you looked around Park City Utah and the US majority are illegal immigrants who work illegally, have 10 people living in a 2 bdrm apartment, and invest the apartments with roaches. It is not sanitary and it is not right that they are paid under the table -send $ back to their family and don't pay for 3-4 apartments to accommodate "their family".

And to top it off...I have heard many story locally that immigrants picke dup for drunk driving are not convicted...they don't stand a chance bc they are illegal but they are shipped to their country and usually come back into the US with drugs within 48 hours. And this is what my taxes pay for...?

And Buttercup...there is a huge diference between illegal and legal. Yes we are all immigrants but you are legal and pay your dues for freedom.

Buttercup said...

Bean,

This is a free country, and if someone wants to work his or her ass off and then send money home to care for their family, I find it very difficult to fault them for it.

The bigger problem is that we have an economy that is built in part on employing illegal immigrants that can be exploited. People who are here illegally do not have the same protection (obviously) from the law, and therefore they are in a far more vulnerble position. When they are being taken advantage of, they can not just call the cops because of the fear that they will be deported.

That fear keeps many immigrants stuck in jobs that pay them far less than the employers would have to pay people with legal status. The employers profit immensely because they don't have to pay their employees a decent wage. I think it's clear that the situation is one in which the immigrants are getting exploited, not the other way around. The illegal immigrants have no power, and no rights.

I agree that as a practical matter there need to be some differences between the rights and privileges afforded to illegal and legal immigrants. However, you have to be very careful where you draw that line. And any time you draw those kind of lines, remember that it's just as easy for someone else to draw the line in a different place - say between legal immigrants (like Dad) and citizens (like you).

Regarding squeezing many families into a small apartment: Given the choice and the resources, I'm sure that the people you are talking about would not choose to cram themselves into a tiny, roach invested apartment. They're doing that because they are poor and have no resources. If you had no resources, you would probably do the same thing.

Even if the people you are talking about are in fact trying to pull one over on the U.S. government and filthy slobs that are causing cockroaches to invest the building, you can't generalize from them to all immigrants. Sure, some immigrants are going to be bad apples. Most of them aren't. Just like, there a lot of citizens that are bad apples, but (hopefully) most of them aren't.

Buttercup said...

Also - I didn't pay any dues for my freedom. You and I are in this country as citizens for one reason and one reason alone: We happened to pop out of an American citizen's body (and you are doubly American, I guess, because you happened to pop out of Mom's body while on U.S. soil).

We didn't do anything to earn being American citizens. It was totally random. We could just as easily have been born to a woman in Iran or Cambodia and then our lives would have been very different. And then, after you struggled to come to the U.S., and worked hard and lived on hardly anything in order to send food back to your family in Iran or Cambodia, I think you would have had a very different view than the one you now hold.