My Rohingya refugee who could not read or write in Burmese (but learned somewhat decent verbal English from the militia who murdered his parents) had to quit school, after just three months, to work full time at a chocolate factory.
My Honduran and Salvadoran refugees live lives in limbo waiting for court hearings that are mostly clouded in misery with threats of deportation.
My son awaits the opportunity to work while his cousin, his only nearby family, has to move from state to state working roofing jobs with no options for permanency because of his lack of papers and English skills.
Meanwhile, 20,000 people stood in line in 8-degree weather this morning to support our president, just down the road from my house, claiming his stance on immigration is one of the most important policies they support.
These white people (it’s always fucking white people) are simply fulfilling their American dream: If it works for me, it’s fine. Fuck everyone else.
And he isn’t my son. I was reminded of this last night when DHS came and told me that we can’t send so much money home to his destitute family, that he cannot leave the state for more than seven days (forget our three-week family vacation), that he must take extra English classes and study a vocation and be an independent tenant.
Not an eighteen-year-old boy whose vision was so focused on running for a train to escape abuse and poverty that he couldn’t see much beyond that journey. He just knew that here was the goal, here with all the money in the world… here with all the opportunities in the world… and screaming, raging racists waiting behind every third door, anxious to keep those things from people like him.
I didn’t know the Spanish word for tenant, so after the meeting, when I was explaining all the depressing news to him, I pulled up Google Translate and couldn’t help but be immediately disturbed by its interpretation: inquilino.
The word sounds wrong to me, like a sour slice of lime in my mouth, a cottony accusation. So similar to inquietude. On the same list as inquiline: an animal that lives habitually in the nest or abode of some other species. Its origins in Chile speak of servitude… submission… slavery.
“We can’t have you taking our money for a vacation. This isn’t a handout.”
I’m not asking for a handout. I already had the entire trip booked and paid for, and he could easily fit in the backseat of my Honda Pilot and lay his eyes on Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Puget Sound, places he may never be able to see otherwise, but… OK.
I won’t use your fucking handout to take a sliver of his summer for three weeks of adventure and joy.
I won’t ever see my Rohingya refugee again because he will be working twelve-hour shifts for minimum wage for the rest of his life so that people can buy a box of chocolates for their Valentine.
My husband could lose his job at any moment because he works for a corporation, like all other corporations that are part of the white American dream, that overpays its CEOs and lays off its workers to cut costs.
But the economy is great, right? And with Democratic infighting led by billionaire Bloomberg, it sure feels like that crowd of 20,000 standing in the cold is going to win this election. So we are in for another four years of heartbreak.
We are all inquilinos. Tenants in houses not owned by us, in jobs not guaranteed to us, in a country that owns us because we are not allowed to own it.
Inquilinos. Inquietude. Indefinite. Inmigrantes.
And it would be nice if we could just be human.