The Immigration Conversation

I met a pleasant enough lady this weekend. She was a retired lawyer who jumped back in the land of the working to work part time for a forensic psychologist. We talked for hours on the bus about different things in life and life in general.

Then one of us, and I don’t think it was me, hit a touchy subject.


And she turned into someone else. I thought her eyeballs were gonna roll back.

She filled with rage explaining to me how this country will never work, NEVER WORK to strive and better itself because they keep letting “those people” in.
I felt compelled to hear her out because I wanted to know exactly how one who thinks it is unfair to let others into this piece of land feels like it is their obligation to shut the so called passageway once held open by the giant chick The Statue of Liberty who even states

“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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And more than likely, those words once meant something to the great great grandfather of the lady ranting next to me about how a phone book should only be in one language.

Now, I heard her out, but I reminded her that at one time this country did indeed exist with thousands of different languages. She didn’t really get what I was saying, she went on to rant that every city in America has a Chinatown and that shouldn’t exist, it just shouldn’t happen like that.
I explained that I felt not a single person on this Earth should ever lose their culture and forget who they are, otherwise, they take pride in naming themselves after a bottle of steak sauce and where is the culture in a bottle of Heinz 57? My apologies to any members of the Heinz 57 tribe, I myself am more than one race, but for the life of me I would not call myself a bottle of weak ketchup and giggle about it.
Not when I know where I come from and who I am, I am proud of my culture and that pride runs deep.

So I just told the lady “I get it.”

She gave me a look like she didn’t trust me.

I really do get it, I told her. My people were against immigration also. We felt our homelands invaded. We fought for our Grandmother Earth. This was before my time, and yet I feel as if my very own Motherland was swiped from under my feet like a cheap rug. As if Columbus landed yesterday and Turtle Island was invaded.

We kind of sort of silently and mutually agreed to end the subject right there.

But the more I think about it, I understand how your typical conservative feels as if they need to close the gates on immigrants.

I understand because the patriotism I have for this land goes further than stripes and stars and apple pie and baseball…wait, it’s as deep as my love for baseball.
The patriotism I feel for this land is to honor the Earth that WE BELONG TO.
We never owned the beautiful Turtle Island, she owns us and we honor her.
We held onto our culture that includes so many ceremonies preserved over the years to honor the land that gives us life on a daily basis.

So of course, every Indigenous person of their land feels invaded after centuries even. Whether they are Indigenous of North America, South America, New Zealand, Australia….etc.
And that makes it easy for the descendants of the invaders to tell us to “get over it” but to not know how to handle when the same thing happens to them.

And I can’t even tell any descendant of any of the invaders to “get over it.”
Wanna know why?

Because you NEVER will.

Just like I never got over the fact that you are all here now, centuries later. Not when I know my ancestors spilled blood for the land you happily mow your manicured lawn on Saturdays and bitch about paying taxes on every Spring.

So I get all of it, I also know that generations from now, your descendants will probably still be mad about it, like most my people my age still are. And younger.


7 thoughts on “The Immigration Conversation

  1. Thanks for this deeply thoughtful and personal post. There is certainly a great deal of hypocrisy out there re immigration. I imagine the situation would be helped immensely if the dominant culture were to teach the real history of the country, and maybe even apologize for that history’s many wrongs against Native and Mexican people. I doubt that is going to happen though. Denial is an enormous burden that poisons those who become caught up in it.

    All that said, I am also aware that I am a mix of European immigrant and Native. Sometimes the battle for the land and culture seems to be going on within me. I work on bringing some understanding, acceptance, and peace to my own life. Sounds like you do to.

  2. “i thought her eyeballs were gonna roll back” haha. That gave me an image of someone totally coming unhinged as they were speaking.

  3. I almost felt as if I were sitting there listening–this is a great piece. To listen in order to learn, I admire that so much. I’ve heard what you heard all my life, because the people who talk like that look at me and figure I’m going to agree with me. I don’t, and furthermore they make me so angry that I rarely listen anymore.

    Just a try, once in a while, to explain history and power and race and default culture and the unbreakable connection of language and culture and–my favorite–the fact that my home, New Mexico, still has two official languages and does beautifully with them, thank you very much.

    I’ll be following you; I hope you write your head off!!

  4. Excellent story and I agree with everything you said……beautifully written! I found your blog as I was doing research about Pine Ridge Reservation for my class of young adults who hope to come up there some time next year to do some volunteer work. A friend of mine made me aware of the reservation and I cannot stop thinking about all that he described about the area. I will be keeping up with your blog and hope to meet you some day… are an excellent writer and I will be passing on your work to everyone I know….

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