self-effaced

It’s not about you. It’s about me, always.
This is me: hopelessly lost, hopelessly self-consumed
in irrational ideas about how
if I knew you, then I would know myself.

It’s been hard pinning down my existence,
so I try to find a you to define,
someone to know forwards and backwards,
looking for the possibility I’ve been effaced
into the stare of glossy eyes that can never see me,
into the grip of hands that can never hold me,
into the warmth of a body that can never love me.

It’s not you. It’s always me.
every luscious and unpalatable
shade of my being.

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1,000 miles: step 45

“Maybe my finger has never pulled the trigger of White supremist crime and violence

Still, I will forever be as guilty as my silence when the color of my skin

grants me privilege for those sins, the crime I do not stand against is as good as mine…”

–Andrea Gibson, “Bullets and Windchimes

I missed my political science lecture this past Tuesday to attend one of this year’s final protests for immigration reform in Washington, DC. Last April, I missed my favorite spring semester class, English Composition, for the same cause. My professor at that time had some interesting thoughts, something like “my silence in this capitalist society makes me culprit.”

The first impression most people get when they first meet me is that I’m a shy little thing… But it’s not social anxiety that keeps me quiet. I’m an observer. A listener. A notetaker. People are so internally complex— mentally, biologically, and emotionally. It fascinates me.

There are people who have really struck me as a mystery. People who seem to genuinely submit to an ideology of hate and ignorance. If I don’t have anything nice to say, I know to hold my tongue. I’ve held my silence many times:

  • at the condescending tone of a DMV representative for realizing I’m a Temporary Protected Status holder
  • at the sympathetic but never empathic words of “an ineligible for these benefits” phone call or letter
  • at the “words of wisdom” people try to offer even though they don’t know half of my struggles

Compared to other immigrants, my struggles have been few. And people in more difficult situations have overcome. I recognize, I can never feel pity for myself. It’s because I know how better off I am that the undocumented immigrant population matters to me.

It’s not just that a 7 year old little boy should have to stand in a crowd of strangers, on the verge of tears, to recount how he hasn’t seen and misses his deported dad. It’s not just for hardworking Latino high school graduates to quit their dreams because they’re ineligible for financial aid.

No, I don’t believe the 11 million will get justice. Maybe a tainted justice in the form of fees and paperwork. I don’t even believe in direct citizenship… simply the opportunity to get there some day. I’m content with permanent residency (which is all I’m asking after 12+ years of living in the U.S.). It would be reason enough to celebrate. If Congress could get its act together, actions for a “comprehensive immigration reform” would have been taken years ago.

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1,000 miles: step 31

“Ice: water frozen solid

ICE: Immigration Customs Enforcement”

La Santa Cecilia’s lead singer, La Marisoul, showcases her breathy, resonant voice through this song. The song is delivered was such sincerity, such reality, it has been hard to budge from my consciousness.

It tells the story of Eva, who cleans home for a living with fear in her heart.

of Jose, who was a taxi driver once upon a time and now drives an old truck

of children and parents who never see each other

and of Martha, the story of a dreamer, a story that reminds me too much of my daily struggle:

Martha llego de niña y sueña con estudiar [Martha came as a little girl and dreams of studying]

Pero se le hace dificil sin los papeles [But it’s a made difficult without papers]

Se quedan con los laureles los que nacieron aca [The laurels stay with those born here]

Pero ella nunca deja de luchar [But she never gives up fighting].

for the entire lyrics, visit the #Not1More campaign for keeping undocumented families together.

Because of the recent Boston bombings, details of an immigration bill have been cut short. The sneak peaks I’ve heard have come to me like a pack of ice for a wound that needs proper bandaging. And so, I have to remind myself that my society is one with rules and regulations. There is a procedure for everything. From living to dying.

Citizenship is a process.

A lot of the opponents to a pathway to citizenship, even one that takes 13 “short” years, argue that offering this choice rewards rule breakers. Rule breakers should be deported, fined, punished.

But I believe fear and abuse have been punishment enough. Being told you’re life is illegal is punishment enough. Being denied access to higher education is enough. And it angers me that any country–my America, where I’ve grown up–could ever belittle a human.

It is mind-blowing.

1,000 miles: step 29

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Yesterday, though I was over an hour early to the immigration rally, by the time 3:00 came around, I was nowhere near the front of the stage. In fact, I was moving towards the front a dos pasos, cada dos horas (two steps, every two hours, as that merry man next to me would say).

Coming early meant having an excellent view of people heading towards the West Lawn. With their white or state color shirts, and their flags and posters boldly waving in the air. The high sun smiling upon the Reflecting Pool and the Pentagon, coating them in elegance. The scene was set for a summer date: immigration and a call for reform, now.

It was thousands of people: African, Asian, Latino, White. But not enough. I have been told that the key to happiness is to have no expectations. I had too many expectations, and maybe I’m not alone in that respect. CASA de Maryland, 32BJ SEUI, and CARECEN campaigned intensively to bring DC, VA, and MD locals to the Capitol building. And what happens? They were busy with life, working, studying.

And know what? I missed my weekly 3 hour class for the cause. Mind you, it’s my favorite class: English composition. My mother, a 32BJ union member, was the only one from her sector to come to the rally. I didn’t come across her, but it was a given that we would both be there. She was losing an hour of pay, but gaining hours of engagement and hope. And know what else? Hundreds came from states away: California, Texas, New York… Because if you want something done, you make sacrifices.

I don’t know what it’s like to live in the fear of deportation. I know what it’s like to live in the fear of not renewing Temporary Protected Status.

I don’t know what it’s like to come home to find your mother has left the United States and has been sentenced to Central America. I don’t know what it’s like to be in foster care. I only know what it’s like to have your family break apart because it’s dysfunctional.

I don’t know what it’s like to graduate from high school and put away your cap, only to replace it by faded, torn jeans and calloused hands. I only know what it’s like to bite your lips to silence tears because your mother may not afford to pay a semester’s tuition.

I don’t even know what it’s like to graduate from high school. I do know how to measure consequences and make the choice that fits me. And yet, I would never know forced drop-out because your family needed some help in the fields.

I don’t know what it’s like to live in anyone’s shoes but mine, and I would never use that as an excuse not to care. I care. I care. I care so much I might as well be staring into the sun.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, Claudia. Change may not come within the next weeks. Maybe it’s coming this Monday or Tuesday, maybe this May, if we are to believe Senator Menendez. All I can take for certain is that when it comes around, I’ll be ready. I’ve been ready long enough. There are people who have been ready 10 years ago. Some who have been ready their whole lives.

1,000 miles: step 20

Last semester, I applied to  Hollins University, an extremely small and private liberal arts school. It simply echoed the education I received at Simon’s Rock. Hollins, however, has a lot more going for it. What caught my eye the most was its strong creative writing program and its closeness to home. Hollin’s in Roanoke, Virginia, and though far to the south,  I would have fallen head over heels with the campus.

And I mean that. The first time I visited Great Barrington, Massachusetts for orientation week, the week before starting classes at Simon’s Rock, was the first time I had stepped foot at Simon’s Rock. I had seen pictures and read a lot about the school, but I had no doubt that when I stepped foot on campus, I would be at home. And that’s how it was.

I felt and feel the same about Hollins. I know it is a wise choice to visit school campuses before attending a school. But I am full of faith when it comes to places rooted in nature.

Something else about Hollins: it’s all-girls at the undergrad level. My mum, she wants me to expect the worst from men. Hollins would have eased her fears. And it would have also been an opportunity for greater intellectual growth—after all, women have been silenced far too much throughout history.

And so, when an envelope from Hollins University arrived in the mail today, I got curious. When I picked it up, and felt its weight, that of a feather, I already knew it was a fear come true.

I have written a piece for the Residency Now campaign, sharing the difficulties of being a TPS college student, and I confessed, “When I apply to 4 year transfer schools, the scariest thing is being accepted and not having the financial means to attend.”

And that’s what the letter of acceptance and rejection said, along with this: “You are a high caliber student and we wish we had better news.” The news was that as an international student, which is what I become when I apply to schools, Hollins didn’t have much aid to offer me.

The money they did offer is a lot for an international student. But I cannot and will not repeat the financial struggle of Simon’s Rock.

And yet, the news that a college–not an open-enrollment college like NOVA– accepted me is relieving. It’s what my advisors tell me come true: schools will want a student like you. It’s always hard to believe because of the misleading GED diploma I carry with me. Also, as is typical of a young women, I allow mirrors to twist any beauty that comes my way.

And the desire for intellectual beauty takes people far. I can only hope God is willingly to walk with me, whether I eat an apple or a plum as I get there.

And dear reader, that is all my heart is willingly to share for today.