Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mi Amigo, El Inmigrante

My contribution to the immigration debate, which is nowadays as much a national security issue as a labor issue, is a personal one.

I met “Pepe,” a Colombian exchange student at my high school, around 1984. We and other friends had many good times together before the sad goodbyes at the airport, when Pepe went home.

It was 15 years later when I heard Pepe was returning to the US. His young wife had died of cancer and he couldn’t deal with Colombia anymore. Partly because it was full of memories of his wife, and partly because of the volatile political climate.

In 2000 Pepe came to town, and it was if no time had passed. We both looked different, but resumed our friendship without pause. (He credits me for introducing him to U2 way back when, his favorite band until this day.)

We started hanging out, and as we were both seeking female company (many of our friends had gotten married since Pepe left), hit the town together on many evenings.

Women loved Pepe’s Latin good looks. He got whistled at from across the street. One woman, who was walking a few steps behind her boyfriend, winked at Pepe as she passed; her boyfriend had no idea. And once one walked up to Pepe and gave him her phone number at the start of their conversation.

It wasn’t all fun and games with Pepe, though. We
of course talked about his wife. He also told me of the guerillas who kidnap and kill people every day in Colombia. He reserved his rare curse words for them.

Pepe has since moved to another state, where he got a job and got married.

Earlier this year the INS “visited” Pepe early one morning, when his wife was off visiting her sick father, and hauled him away.

Pepe was in a detention center for many weeks – something so surreal to me I cannot picture – and was allowed only weekly visits from his wife.

There had been some miscommunication over Pepe's immigration paperwork, and a judge didn’t believe his marriage was legitimate, so Pepe was deported back to Colombia.

A few years ago Pepe told me he was concerned that as a member of the Colombian media (a radio personality, before he came left in 2000) he was a target for the guerillas, who often go after the media.

Pepe’s no terrorist, but we’ve sent him back to live among them.

19 comments:

liberalbanana said...

That's awful!

The immigration issue is something that find me straying from the "liberal" title I've given myself. I don't understand why these people think they should be given legal rights when they're here illegally. Tons of people go through the legal routes to become citizens and it works. Why can't these people do that, too?? It's not fair to the ones who are following the rules.

Bird said...

bogs - your story puts a personal face on the issue - thanks.

here's two more:

i have dear friends in thailand - a committed same-sex couple - let's call them Bob and Tyler(married here in SF two years ago - but rumor has it the marriage is invalid) - Bob is an American expat, Tyler is Thai. Bob's parents are aging and ailing, and Bob foresees a day soon when he will have to move back to the States to care for his parents. Of course, he wants Tyler to come with him, but although they've explored numerous (legal) avenues, it will be impossible for Tyler to come on any kind of long-term or permanent basis. Right now, because of immigration and visa rules, when Bob and Tyler visit yearly, Tyler goes through quite a bit of hassle to get his visa - and to have it extended. B&T are trying to play by the rules and are resentful that others, who arrive illegally, can circumvent the system that is holding them back.

But, here's another tale. I had a student last semester who is in this country illegally - since he was three. Somehow his brother though has been able to get the right papers and is in legally. But the family as a whole, living in this country for 15 years, working hard, paying taxes, contributing to our society, live in fear of deportation. And the truth is, we really do want them here - else it wouldn't be so easy for family members to get jobs and keep them.

i see that "illegals" want rights, want to be able to be here, because afterall, employers WANT them here. So when our government starts talking about immigration reform ... why isn't it talking about penalizing the companies and corporations that want these "illegals" as a cheap source of labor (which of course makes their profit margin larger)?

So, it's a wink and a nod. C'mon on in and work for us cheap - we want you hear (wink, nod), but oh by the way - you're illegal scum and shouldn't be here, and since you shouldn't be here (even though we want you here), we'll treat you like shit.

and yet, there's my friend Tyler, who can't get in.

Jack K. said...

Pete, sorry to hear about Pepe's plight. Xenophobia is everywhere in these "enlightened" times. It is another example of our institutionalized racist culture.

We send an interesting message to the world. Look how we have made things happen for ourselves. We are a very successful, powerful nation. Our very Statue of Liberty asks, nay, begs, people to come and prosper. And when they do are they in for a surprise.

We may need to look on our own back yard to see if we are ignoring the plight of our own poor, uneducated as discussed in this shocking report. It is a summary of a recent Oprah show.

bird, you beat me to it again. I am finding that whenever I begin a comment and hit the preview button, your comment appears when it was not there before. You are some kind of cool magician. Lol

I hope that Bob and Tyler can get there situation resovled and be able to spend their lives where they choose.

Mr Q said...

"institutionalized racist culture." It is very subtle, it benefits some of us more than it hurts. If you want to know the modus operandi of DHS then this

http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_2084.htmlis a must read.

IRC is correct Jack. My fellow Americans, check the table of truth being used to control who comes in when.

Pete Bogs said...

Pepe had a customer service job (bilingualism helps in that) for which he paid all the normal taxes... there is a process for everything that needs to be followed, and he did so... the mixup in paperwork was not his fault, but he still paid the price... I've encountered things like this just paying a traffic ticket; you get snared by some kind of mistake and it's you who has to pay no matter what... they've heard it all and they aren't going to listen to you... so I can imagine it must be so much worse for an "alien" to deal with the bureaucracy here...

while we are a country of immigrants, many of our ancestors "checked in" at Ellis Island, whereas a bordering country like Mexico makes sneaking in a bit easier... so while people jumping fences aren't quite the same as "legit" immigrants, they're not necessarily felons or terrorists either... Pepe came here on a plane, like anyone else... there was no sneaking involved... the fact that he was put in an orange jumpsuit and caged makes me sick... he's a gentle soul and the farthest thing from a criminal you'll ever meet...

when "orientation" is added, as bird points out, it's all the more difficult an issue with immigration... not how it should be, though...

thanks all for your thoughtful posts...

The Flabbergasted Heathen said...

From what I gather, Pepe WAS here legally. At least, he was married to an American citizen, was he not?

Give the illegals right? Nope.

Deport someone for forgetting to fill out section three, sub-paragraph A, line two? Oh hell no!

Pete Bogs said...

Pepe had an above-the-counter job with a big company... it's not like him to be deceitful...

Pepe requested asylum in the US, with the situation at home what it was, but apparently that wasn't approved...

fatty ~ said...

its so much worse in australia. Well, its different.

If the government hadn't given my dad citizenship in the 70s, i wouldn't be here.
I know people here who were illegal for years before eventually getting citizenship. They'd never be let through now.

Why is immigration so negative?

Hellpig said...

You know how I feel about illegal aliens,if they followed procedures I don't have issues.

I also believe no health care to illegal aliens,until American health care issues are addressed.

If a baby is born here from an Illegal alien that baby should be illegal as well.

I also agree with the soon to be law that penalizes employers 40k that hires Illegal aliens.

FYI the rallies Monday were organized by Marxists,check my blog for article.

As for Pepe I feel that this one fell through the cracks in the system,that is if what you say is accurate.

Bird having lived in Thailand for 2 years '69 to '71 wouldn't it be easier to move the parents there,Health care is better,economy is better,food is great,people ar great,except for southern Thailand were the islamonazi's have gained a foothold and are desicrating shrines and killing school children and teachers(another topic)

Blue said...

This is dreadful.

We have wrongful deportations too. I have referred to them before on my blog. A guy who had been here since he was 2 - only spoke english - deported to Serbia. Still fighting to get back - he is australian, its all he has ever known - beaurecratic crap.

But then we also wrongfully put mental health patients in 'immigration detention centres' for YEARS before they worked it out.

BTW when I say 'we' I mean the Govt & their fucked up policies.

I think its time for the so called 'superior' western countries to start addressing the human rights issues within our own borders before we start jumping in to 'fix' everyone else.

ffff said...

Thanks Fatty and Blue for putting up the examples I was going to.
Australia is no great example of how to treat 'asylum' seekers which is different from 'illegal ' immigrants. The greatest number of illegal in Australia are from Britain ( approx 60,000) and they are NEVER gaoled!! A lot are from NZ ( something we kind of accept) and some who are rich enough to fly in under vistors visas and then just stay.
Asylum seekers are those running from persecution and we put them behind bars for (in one instance) up to 7 years. Kids have been born in detention and are mentally unhealthy.

Anyway there are 11 mill illegal immigrants in the USA and they say if you sent them all home the economy would crash. they do work no American would do(??) They work longer hours for less and they are grateful. What happened to 'give me your huddled masses?' As Fatty said it is ok for those already accepted so who are the worst at saying (like liberalbanana) "Why give them rights" Why? Because they are people first and needy people second. The USA like Aust is big enough and wealthy enough to help those willing to take a chance, surely!

Pete Bogs said...

ali - I have seen some of those huddled masses... they are migrant workers who come here to pick the strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, etc. that we eat... they literally crowd into the back of pickup trucks together to go to the farms each day... I concur with your notion about our countries being big enough and caring enough to help people... CUE conservative complaints about wasting our tax money, etc.

and still I learn more about Oz...

BB - that Serbian story is unreal...

fatty - we're glad you're here/there...

Bird said...

Hey Pig,
You are full of surprises! I want to know more about your stay in Thailand - what were you doing? You were rather young at the time, right? (you're in your 40s, eh? or am I confusing your profile with someone else's? uh-oh, porcine profiling!)

Yes, it would be "easier" for my friends to move the folks to Thailand - but they are old and don't want to leave all that they know.

Bogs - yes, you've pegged it - my friends’ immigration issues would be a lot simpler if their "domestic" relationship was recognized.

fatty ~ said...

alison has a good point -

"give me your huddled masses"
"land of the free"

why do current americans think they are more righteous/needy than anyone else?

the australian system is pathetic. It shames me to be connected with it.

Pete Bogs said...

fatty - did you see "Gangs Of New York?" the Bill the Butcher character (Daniel Day Lewis) was very sure that he and his people were the only REAL Americans, and that Irish and others were just scum... that attitude still exists, apparently...

Hellpig said...

Bird I was very young 5 and 6 years old I attended the International school of Bangkok
ISB

Both my parents were in the army,my father was career and did 3 tours in Nam,my mother was a Lab tech.I was a Army brat born on a army base Ft.Ord in Monterey Ca.

While in Thailand I had a White dog named spider and we had a Thai maid/cook/babysitter named Mit.
Every fall the rains came and flooded our off base rental house,entire city actually.Ironically I was also introduced to the "Bird" at that young age,My fathers friend had a wooden carving of the middle finger,I reproduced the unknown image to my father and was spanked severely.He never told me what it meant,needless to say I was flipping it at a very young age and taught all the kids in my class how too as well.

I could go on and on Bird these are of the best memories of my childhood.Things I will never forget,Thank you Bird for allowing me to re-visit them.

Pete Bogs said...

looks like Oz is sending them to camps now:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060413/ap_on_re_au_an/australia_asylum_seekers

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