Hans Magnus Enzenberg, a German author, poet, translator, and editor illustrates on his essay “The Great Migration” how natives react to migratory waves using a train paradox.
Two passengers in a train compartment … Have settled comfortably, have grabbed tables, hangers, and racks, and have spread news papers, coats and bags on empty seats. Shortly after, the door is opened and two new passengers enter the same compartment. The first two do not welcome them. They show clear signs of disgust before deciding to collect their things, share rack space, and retreat to their seats. Even without knowing each other at all, the two passengers show a surprising initial mutual solidarity; they act as a group set against the newcomers, who are invading their territory. They will consider any new passenger they see an intruder. A concept that defies all rational explanation, and that, however, is deeply rooted. Yet, the newcomers are just being tolerated. First two will get used to them, still stigmatized, but yet in a lesser degree…
The compartment door is opened again to make way for two new passengers; from this moment, the status of their predecessor’s changes. Up until now, they still were outsiders, strangers, but on this moment they have become natives. They are now part of the clan of the sedentary, the owners of the compartment, and as such, make use of all their privileges they think they are entitled to. It is paradoxical to defend an ‘ancestral’ territory that only has been held for few minutes; a notable lack of empathy for the newcomers is shown. These are now facing the same rejection and have the same difficult initiation ceremony their predecessors just had. Surprisingly how quick is to forget that everyone hides and denies their origins.
This story reflects the current situation of undocumented immigrants in the US (probably around the world) and American society. It illustrates the reactions of “natives” to the migration waves. A rising phenomenon around the world, not only because the means of transportation make them increasingly simple, but above all by the abysmal asymmetries between countries that provide better living and working conditions markedly unequal. After all, nobody leaves their family and land behind without a mediated promise, right? In a big number of cases, undocumented immigrants don’t face the original population of the territory, but the generations of the first migrants which react with suspicion, hostility an even belligerence against the new comers. This paradigmatic case speaks directly to the United States. A country forged by successive migratory waves, which have given its cosmopolitan and diverse setting, and which also have now activated all kind of chauvinists’ ideas to keep the country safe from the invasion of “undesirables.” Mexico is not the exception to this; we just have to look at the reception they give to Central American immigrants (next post perhaps).
Couple of months ago and after having been passed by the House of Representatives, the DreamAct was rejected by the Senate (only missed by 5 votes). This initiative would have changed immigration rules to create a path to citizenship for undocumented children who came to the U.S. before they were 16 years old. Those children would’ve been required to attend college or join the military. Those children are; in most cases youth who have made their life in America and who in many cases, do not speak more than English, and are integrated to into the everyday life of this country. And yet they cannot obtain citizenship or even a dignified existence.
And now, to make the situation even worse, and even though the U.S. Constitution states that everyone born in the territory should be considered American, there is a groundswell opinion within the Republican Party claiming that the children of undocumented immigrants should not been recognized as full citizens. Legislators in several states are already preparing initiatives to amend the constitutional amendment granting automatic citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. These lawmakers, with an imagination worthy of better causes, want to close the way to what they call “anchor babies.” For example, they have the assumptions that pregnant women cross the border to get their children born here only to automatically receive U.S citizenship. The first train passengers see the newcomers getting on the bandwagon now!
Migrations, when they are massive, always generate defensive reactions from the “invaded” communities. The implementation of speeches whose axes are “we” and “others,” invariably carries a burden of concern for the weak. But precisely because these axes and concerns exist, is imperative to reinforce the respect for human rights of immigrants as if they were a dam ready to collapse, especially where there is already a legislation that offers “some” guarantees as in the case of children born in the USA, and according to the Constitution receive the recognition of U.S.A. CITIZENS!
Immigration is a hot potato topic that nobody wants to hold. The GOP are using their lack of arguments to govern and focused on polarizing this, and many other social issue to create fear into “natives” already accommodated in the train and use it as the golden ticket to their success. They want to sale the idea of a perfect Utopia world by blaming “illegal workers” for all the calamities, financial collapses, jobs downfall, and American society tragedies. Don’t get me wrong, there are some Democrats who perfectly fit the same description. But in a perfect utopian world, all aspects of society, politics and legal system are balanced. Humans lived in harmony with no wars or oppression. Especially, NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL. A Person cannot be illegal. Existence isn’t illegal.
The last train to Utopia is about to leave town. It’s up to each one of us to make the trip as pleasant as possible; without labels, bigotry, intolerance, prejudice, or dogmatist fanaticism. What do you think?