Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good vs Bad Immigrant

Julianne Hing (from wrote about Walter Lara's delayed deportation, and took the time to point out an interesting and increasingly apparent topic in the immigration movement discourse, "good" vs "bad".

The immigration rights movement, forced into a defensive posture, is down on its knees begging for crumbs. Pleading to keep only the “good” immigrants in the country, those who will labor with their heads down, without asking for rights. DREAMers are in the business of selling an image as a class of exceptional, pristine high achievers. The language of the DREAM Act demands that those who would benefit from its passage be of “good moral character.”

When the DREAM Act is passed, heck, when immigration reform gets passed, people in this country will feel so magnanimous. But families will still get torn apart because we insist on dividing immigrants into two camps: the good and deserving, and the bad and unworthy.
This fissure in the immigration discourse is counter productive. Julianne goes on to say:

Who has room in their hearts for people whose life stories also include a past of pedestrian crimes or even larger transgressions, when we reduce the immigrant community to the Walter Lara's in it? Who has time to fight for those whose lives are contextualized within the struggles of real-life racism and poverty?
Walter Lara should never be deported, but neither should have any of the people we met in Jamaica. The very same people we'd met who'd been convicted of deportable crimes had also put down roots in the United States.
As a DREAM Act potential-beneficiary i feel somewhat disturbed by this argument, this differentiation, this division and labeling of "good" immigrant and "bad" immigrant.

As an undocumented Immigrant I have had to work the typical menial underground economy jobs, and from them i had the privilege to meet many other immigrants from different areas of the immigrant spectrum.

I don't differentiate and neatly separate immigrants into little clumps. I've met people who have crossed deserts , have been hidden in trunks, or overstayed. They were mothers, fathers daughters and sons. All of these people are here because they wanted something better. All work their asses off, many under horrible conditions, often 12 hrs per day.

Ms. hing refers to these immigrants as:

the “good” immigrants in the country, those who will labor with their heads down, without asking for rights.

Yet what is necessarily so wrong with wanting these people to stay? because they follow the law? because they "keep their heads down" and stay out of trouble? i fail to see the issue with having these immigrants stay. Ms. Hing also tries to differentiate between DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants (a practice that i see becoming much too common).

I am an undocumented immigrant who has had the privileged of being able to attend college, and receive an education. But i am an undocumented immigrant, and as such I want Immigration reform, not only for me but for all those hard working people i have met. I fight for DREAM Act because i believe it is a viable step forward towards a solution to this issue.

I don't however, believe that if you did any of the following things (from Ms Hing's article) , you deserve to stay in this country:

We met people who'd been deported because they were convicted for possession of several kilos of cocaine. We met a man who was ordered removed from the country because he shot another person.

These are criminal Acts in ANY country, and regardless of the fact that these people laid down roots in the US they are generating more harm than good. What is the benefit of having a drug dealer avoid deportation?

What is so bad about believing that a hard working undocumented woman deserves to stay and an undocumented potential murder should be deported?

I suppose Ms Hing might be right in pointing out that there are "good" and "bad" immigrants. I just fail to see the harm done by keeping drug dealers, murderers, rapists and gang members out while providing students, laborers, mothers, fathers ect. a pathway to regularization.


  1. hi gabe. my name is nicole. i'm a freelance reporter doing a story about undocumented college age kids in chicago. i'm wondering if i can talk to you about what inspired your activism. i'm at thanks

  2. hi nicole, i would like to contribute to youre story. would it be possible for you to provide me with some links of your work?