Tuesday, June 26, 2007

La Migra

Let me tell you about my friend. She was born a half century ago in a little highland village in a Latin American country far away. Her family wasn't poor. They had a roof over their head and a little garden plot. Fruit grew in the trees and was free for the taking in the surrounding hill sides. Water came from the stream that ran by the village. There were no schools, no healthcare. The only government service provided were the squads of militia that came in the night and took away the politicos and social activists. The villagers were Roman Catholic. Holidays were celebrated. Everybody walked to mass at the church in the nearest town. It was the life she was born to. The only life she knew. A good life.

When she was fifteen she became a woman by local standards. She got pregnant, as young girls sometimes do everywhere. There was no one who would marry her. In the local culture, unmarried girls are allowed to have their babies. They are allowed to nurse them but they receive no food from the family table. Babies without fathers are not members of the family. After a while the babies usually disappear. Some mothers will nurse a child for years and feed them what they can. In the end, the child is on it's own, feral, a denizen of the street. It is the way of things. Some of them survive for years, some don't. Left alone, feral children become feral adults. Such a thing is prejudicial to good order. The local militia takes time each year to round up what feral children they can and shoot them. They do the same with wild dogs.

My friends heart was broken but not her spirit. There was no help for her, not from friends, family or church. She left her village in the night, with the clothes on her back and sandals on her feet. Like millions before and after her she had begun the migration to the North. It was months later that she swam the river, with the baby boy tied high on her back. A baby born far away and in another country from the one she left. To get to the fabled North, she had worked, begged and stolen to make her way. She had sold what she had to sell, her body, and that helped too.

Today my friend, like me, is beginning to grow old. She is still strong and quick. She laughs often. She lives in the present and talks of the future, never the past. She has a little house, in a good neighborhood. The yard is full of flowers and fruit trees. There is food and water and a place to rest for the birds as they migrate through. She is always attending a college class. She has hundreds of semester hours in every imaginable discipline. She speaks four languages but still has trouble with reading and writing, they are skills it is better to learn young. She writes and plays music. Always, there is work, 60, 70, 80 hours a week, if it is available. It is the way it has always been for her. It is the way it will always be. It is not low paid work. That the house is paid for and there is money put away makes no difference. Work is not to be turned down.

She sends money home to her family in the little village, in a country far away. She sends money to the church in the nearby town. She has it to give and they need it. She takes her family for visits there. She cannot take her oldest son, the child of la migra. He has no father, he is not welcome in the family. He can receive no food at the table.

My friend has a passport, a Social Security number. She is for all intents and purposes a citizen. Same thing with her oldest son. They are not citizens though. All their documentation is fraudulent. Even when amnesty was available they didn't come forward. Government entities are not something they put their trust in. I guess the Republifundimentalists would like to send them back where they came from. Yeah, they'd like a lot of things. Fuck'em. This country is a better place because of my friend and the millions like her.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free.