For me if someone would ask me what is my favorite thing to write about, it would always be, hands down, “People from the Road” blogs. I love people! In my book talks speaking engagements, I always talk about how we are isolated from each other. I would tell my audience about stories of people who had extended me kindnesses, generosity and compassion while I was on the road. I stand in my resolve that I believe that 99.999999 percent of the people in this world are good, honest and giving. I make my audience stand and look at someone that they don’t know, shake their hand and introduce themselves. something wonderful happens, they almost always end up not just shaking hands and introducing themselves but start a dialogue and start talking. The next thing you know they are making friends and being social. I’ll let them talk for 5 minutes or more. Sometimes, they enjoy it so much that it is hard to get them to stop for the rest of my presentation. We are, after all social animals. Beyond that I believe that if more of us would turn off the TV, in particular, the news and go out and talk to someone that does not look like us, I believe this world would be better off. With that said here goes something that I feel is important for people to read about.
I thought it was fitting, seeing as it is the fourth of July, that this may be the most appropriate blog ever! I don’t know about you, but for me the July 4th conjures up feelings of pride and accomplishment, of independence even when the going get’s tough, about opportunity and freedom. It’s the official holiday for dreamers everywhere.
It’s been my experience that everyone, and I mean every single person, has an amazing story, it just takes someone to the ask the questions and start the conversation.
She has inspired me to write this blog. I hope anyone that reads this story will pass it along to bring awareness.
Karen is an awesome bright, beautiful, respectful, funny, outgoing, outdoorsy woman, with a beautiful smile, open optimism and genuine interest in what you are saying. Her energy is overwhelmingly positive. I liked (no loved) her immediately!
I met Karen through a Couch Surf request to host her. See www.couchsurfing.com. She was traveling the northeast for a long overdue vacation and was leaving from the local airport this morning. I was happy to have the opportunity host her for a night. It was like the universe was conspiring to bring us together, so I could hear this story.
For people who know me, it’s super odd that I would be at home on a day off especially as I have a seasonal campsite and was staying there pretty much full-time. Originally, I actually turned her couchsurf request down because I was thinking that another friend was coming to couchsurf my place but I was wrong on the dates, they are coming next week. I contacted her back and said I could host her after-all. Finally, and probably the most important factor was that the guest bedroom was in a state where a person could actually sleep on the bed. The guestroom often seconds as a storage unit.
I wish she was staying longer, I would have loved to give her the full Hartford historic walking tour and maybe bring her to the ocean and Mystic, but she was going back to her home today to be with her loving family, a cute sassy (her word) 5 year old daughter and her supportive and sweet (her word) husband. She is gainfully employed as a regional manager of nine restaurants locations of a famous chain restaurant. Anybody who knows the restaurant business knows that this is a big position with responsibilities and big demands.
I asked where she was from originally and she said Mexico and that she came here when she was very young. I asked if she was in the DACA program and she indicated that she was. Immigration, in particular, what this country is doing to Mexican immigrants, is something I am very passionate about. I lived a little while in Texas and I think we as a people, have been fed a line of propaganda about the immigration ‘problem’ between the US and Mexico. When I was in Texas (1983 and 1984) we were building houses – rough framing mostly. It’s outside work, in the hot sun, all day. We put ads in the papers, we tried so hard to get people to work as carpenters. Low and behold the only people who applied for the jobs, were transplants from Michigan and West Virginia. We were paying fair market wages but nothing we did could convince a Texan to work all day in the hot sun. We essentially hired every person that applied for the jobs that were offered. Unfortunately, there were not enough Americans to fill the need. There were deadlines that needed to be met for completion of our part of the construction on a couple of houses. What did we do? We hired Mexican workers and they were amazing, wonderful, hardworking people. My experience tells me that Mexican immigrants are not the problem. Maybe the business owners should be looked at because low and behold they do enjoy keeping their profit margins high by hiring Mexican immigrants at below fair market wages. But I digress just a tiny bit. Back to Karen.
Karen told me the story of how her Dad was an abusive alcoholic and her mom had to make the painful decision to run away with her two daughters one day, when Karen was really little. They bounced around different cities in Mexico but their dad always found them. Her mom was afraid that he was going to hurt the girls and didn’t want that for them.
Once Karen’s mom made the decision to go to the US, she devised a plan that included them having to split up and she left her daughters in the care of two people that the girls did not know. She said that they were supposed to bring the girls over the border and they were supposed to meet on the US side. That was the plan, but two things happened. Her mom got caught at the border and got sent back to Mexico and the people that were watching the girls never took them to the other side either. She not sure why but got the perception that they had no intention to taking them over the border.
She was too little to understand the circumstances but did remember that those people did not seem to have the intention of traveling anywhere as agreed upon. Karen wonders even today, if maybe their
mom was lied to and that those people were human traffickers
. She said they were not abusive but they were cold and not nurturing. At any rate, it was a good thing that their mom had to come back and was reunited with her and her sister. They again had to split up and was given to another man to bring them over the border. Her sister was a toddler and Karen can remember the
man driving having to drug her little sister
because she was inconsolable and crying constantly for her mom. How scary is that? At some point, they made it over the border and were reunited.
Now just for a moment, close your eyes, take some deep breathes, and open your heart. Imagine how scary would that be to a small child? Imagine when you were 5,6, or 7 years old and you are with your sibling alone with strangers for an extended time period. How would that feel? If you are a parent, imagine a world where you think that handing over your children to strangers to transport and pray that everything will work out in the end, is the very best thing for your children. How would that make you feel? Imagine being in a new country, disoriented because you don’t understand the language, can read street signs, you don’t know anyone. You have two small children, who are dependent on you and you have nothing but the shirts on your back. Now imagine the world that made you think that this was the only viable option.
If you look at the history of immigration in this country, the people who came here, did so when times in their own countries were war torn or extremely hard. We got the English because of religious persecution, the Irish from the potato famine, the Italians to escape a repressive government, Jewish people from world war II, Chinese people when China was broke, there was no work and 90% of the population was opiod addicted. (See my upcoming blog on Kam Wah Chung in John Day Oregon), most recently an influx of people on the east coast from Albania and Bosnia when there was a war raging over there, Haitians after the earthquake. Just the few examples that I have sited, results in the melting pot that we love to talk about in this country.
I recently saw this video on DACA and have shared it on Facebook many times since. Before seeing this video, I had no idea what was involved in obtaining the DACA status. The work that it takes to maintain their DACA status in this country is downright daunting. I was surprised that there was so much paperwork involved and the need for lawyers. That alone would probably deter me from doing the work. Anyone that goes through all of this work and aggravation, you know is someone that wants to be here and wants to contribute. Honestly most people probably could not afford to do this either. Karen has to spend a ton of money on lawyers for consulting on the status of her DACA. She has paid her dues to this country. There was one other thing (I’m sure there are more) that I learned from Karen about DACA that I didn’t previously know. In the course of our conversation we started to talk about travel and I’m going on and on about my fabulous trip that I put together for the Azores and Portugal and I asked if she has ever been there and she says sadly “No I can’t, because that would start my 10 year ban.” I’m like, “Your what? She then explained that if she ever left the country she would not be allowed back in for 10 years. I looked at her stunned. 10 Years? What’s up with that? So then I promptly went on a rant as she patiently waiting for me to stop and I’m ranting about how the system is so screwed up and how we are making essentially prisoners in this country. WTF? For people who know me, I hardly ever drop an FBOMB but seriously. WTF?
Think about it, imagine you were brought here by your parents as a small child. Imagine you have a child of your own. Imagine that for whatever reason, let’s say she takes a trip to Alaska and there is an emergency landing in Vancouver Canada and she ends up in a different country. She will not be able to return to the US for ten years. For you conservatives out there, umm the system is rigged that these people will never leave. Things that make you go hmmm. So now Karen can not travel outside the contiguous 48 states. It’s so not right.
Think about it. Who wants to be separated from their children for that length of time? Her mom eventually went back to Mexico. What if she dies? What an awful choice to have to make. Not attend my mother’s funeral or not see my daughter for ten years. How horrid. What if you were faced with such choices? How would you feel? What would you do?
It seems completely unfair to me and not right.
Here we are, on the 4th of July, a day for the dissidents, the independent minded, the nonconformist and the dreamers in all of us.
All I know is that Karen is an awesome person that anyone would love to get to know and would feel blessed to meet. She is an asset to this country and to the economy. If there was a person that I say embodies the American Dream – It’s Karen.
On a side note:
I recently read a book titled, “Lucky Boy” by Shanthi Sekaran. It’s a work of fiction about immigration and detention centers. It is well written and a great read. I feel that if enough people read this book, it would have the same impact that Upton Sinclair’s book the “The Jungle” had on the meat packing industry. Also a good read, and you will never look at Cisco or that steak on the grill the same way. If you buy the Kindle version of Lucky Boy, you get a huge list of all the research she used to develop her book. I highly recommend reading it. It paints a picture not too easily forgotten.