In an op-ed today in the New York Times, Antonio Alarcon, a 17 year old DREAMer, describes living life without his parents who “self-deported” to Mexico. As he explains, “self-deportation” is a term that Mitt Romney made popular in a Florida GOP debate. But the idea has some harsh, real-life consequences, particularly for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in this country. His story encompasses a good number of those tragedies. Here’s an excerpt, but read the whole thing. It’s really worth it:
ONE of my happiest childhood memories is of my parents at my First Communion. But that’s because most of my memories from that time are of their being absent. They weren’t there for my elementary school graduation, or for parent-teacher conferences.
From the time I was just a baby in Mexico, I lived with my grandparents while my parents traveled to other Mexican states to find work. I was 6 in 2000 when they left for the United States. And it took five years before they had steady jobs and were able to send for me. We’ve been together in this country ever since, working to build a life. Now I am 17 and a senior in high school in New York City. But my parents have left again, this time to return to Mexico.
Last week, when asked in a debate what America should do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here, Mitt Romney said he favored “self-deportation.” He presented the strategy as a kinder alternative to just arresting people. Instead, he said, immigrants will “decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here.”
But really this goes along with a larger movement in states like Arizona and Alabama to pass very tough laws against immigrants in an attempt to make their lives so unbearable that they have no choice but to leave. People have called for denying work, education and even medical treatment to immigrants without documentation; many immigrants have grown afraid of even going to the store or to church.
The United States is supposed to be a great country that welcomes all kinds of people. Does Mr. Romney really think that this should be America’s solution for immigration reform?
You could say that my parents have self-deported, and that it was partly a result of their working conditions. It’s not that they couldn’t find work, but that they couldn’t find decent work. My dad collected scrap metal from all over the city, gathering copper and steel from construction sites, garbage dumps and old houses. He earned $90 a day, but there was only enough work for him to do it once or twice a week. My mom worked at a laundromat six days a week, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., for $70 a day.
Here’s the conclusion, but, again, read it all:
Immigrants have made this country great. We are not looking for a free ride, but instead we are willing to work as hard as we can to show that we deserve to be here and to be treated like first-class citizens. Deportation, and “self-deportation,” will result only in dividing families and driving them into the shadows. In America, teenagers shouldn’t have to go through what I’m going through.
No teenager should go through what Antonio Alarcon is going through.