Sep 2, 2011


Standing With The Migrants >From The Margins

There are two things that have greeted us during the last few weeks—and these two things concern us all immigrants and migrants of this land. 

We are not going to enter into debate on whether the more appropriate technical term that we use is that of being settlers—for we are, indeed, settlers as well, coming as we are from another land, our ways to coming to America and settling here varied and rough and unpaved at times.

The fact of the case is this: that we have been able to carve out a piece of our earth under the sun, and now trying to guard this piece of earth as fiercely as we can. 

It is our prize for eking out a life here.

But the stories of our coming over—of our migrating to America, of our ‘coming to America—are not of the same beginning, not of the same middle, and certainly not of the same denouement.

Out there are the others—because Othered—migrants and immigrants, some of them branded, like herd, with that label that does not do justice to their sufferings and sacrifices: indocumentado, illegal, ‘tago-ng-tago’ (or someone who keeps on hiding, hiding away from the shadows of immigration officers who are out there to handcuff and deport them).

We have editorialized about the DREAM Act—Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors—and we have argued for the benefits it will give not only to the potential naturalized citizens who have come to this land, but to the larger American community.

We look at the same issue now, and we follow the same argument: that the Obama Administration initiative to give a chance to a number of those who can contribute to the fulfillment of that American Dream while at the same time pursuing it, is worth a try.

President Barack Obama, in his executive order, has said it right: that a path must be cleared to those people who have come here as a child, who have had no mind of their own but had been brought here involuntarily, have imbibed the ways of American life, have not known any other country but the United States, and have equipped themselves with citizenship skills by, among others, educating themselves to the ethos of America that they know as their own homeland. 

The initiative is worth a try.

Cecilia Muñoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, has stated clearly what this initiative is all about, what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Memo of June 17, actually means: an initiative that gives the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice the task to review and ‘clear out low-priority cases on a case-to-case basic and make room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk.’

Echoing the same argument for having the yet-to-be approved DREAM Act as a legislative initiative that has given some hopes to the deserving migrants, ICE Director John Norton says of the ‘prosecutorial discretion’ of his agency, that includes nineteen factors, including the coming of the potential beneficiary to the United States as a child of 15 or below, the pursuit of at least two years of college education, or service in the military.

There are criticisms to this initiative, of course, including the accusation that this is a dictatorial act on the part of the president, and that it is a categorical relief for any form of immigration violation.

Add this to the charge that this is unconstitutional.

We believe otherwise. 

The initiative is at the heart of what the United States is all about.
We have much to gain when we recognize that this country of immigrants will be made greater by the influx of human resources that have much to offer—and our marginalized migrant deserve this recognition of what they can do, and the relief the magnanimous spirit of our laws can offer.  

There are about more than 10 million estimated illegal immigrants in the country at the present.

Of this number, there are 300,000 cases for review in the immigration system, many of which do not fall under the category of ‘posing a serious threat’ but promising a contribution to the greatness of the United States.

Apart from the indigenous peoples and the native Hawaiians, we all have come to settle—to migrate—to this land at one point of our family narrative and history. 

The United States that we know is built upon this vision of a great land and a great mix of peoples with their great mix of gifts and potentials.

We cannot now afford to watch from the sidelines and see the indocumentados, the ‘illegals,’ and the ‘tago-ng-tago’ children and young people to lose their chance at pursuing the American Dream for which they have come here through their elders, and for which dream they have been living for most of their young lives.

Our ethical duty is to stand with them—to stand with the marginalized migrants—and be counted.

There is nothing nobler than this act at this time. 

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