I think I’ve heard it all today. Someone called me “a privileged dreamer” and told me to stop complaining about being in removal because he was more undocumented than me.
Alright, so my parents and I did not travel through the harsh border terrains to enter the United States without inspection. They did not work as migrant farm-workers. None of us had to struggle to learn another language (unless you count American English as another language). And they all have papers.
But my great-grandparents were indentured servants who toiled hard in the fields of Fiji, thousands of miles from their own country. My parents barely finished high school. They left their entire lives behind to come here after a long history of political violence against Indians in their own country. We lived in a small mobile home park that we could barely afford. I started working at Taco Bell when I was barely 16 and they went from being accountants in their country of origin to janitors in America. I was put into some random urban high school with a dismal graduation rate and never went to my own high school graduation. I scrubbed floors and washed toilets to put myself through undergraduate and graduate school.
I don’t want to get into the stress of growing up in a mixed-immigration status family and always feeling like the outsider. Due to my immigration status and removal proceedings, the entire family feels like an axe is hanging over their head at all times and no one feels like they can move forward in their lives. I cannot imagine what it is like for my mother to have papers and not have the same right conferred to the daughter for whom she lives. Her life revolves around my immigration status. And her 30-year marriage to my Dad fell apart because of it.
Mom and Dad fought over everything, including my sexuality and immigration status. Once, cops came to my house to take my father away because a counselor at school reportedly found out that he was assaulting me because I was gay. Despite being more conservative and religious, Mom was the only one to defend me. Still, they spent years trying to force me into a marriage of convenience. I tried to kill myself on three separate occasions. I can go on, but I don’t have time to play oppression Olympics.
True privilege is when bankers get bailed out after crashing the economy and rendering thousands homeless. True privilege is when a British company pours thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and gets away with it. True privilege is straight, white male privilege. True privilege is birthright citizenship.
Still, I will admit two privileges:
- I was born and raised in the Fiji Islands and then the San Francisco Bay Area.
- My mother spent her lifetime savings on me and works 18 hours a day to make sure that she can afford to put me through law school.
Everything else is either luck or hard work. But it isn’t privilege.
People also complain that I sound entitled. When you, your siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles work hard and pay taxes and you still get told to appear all the way across the country to stand trial for the actions of someone else contrary to what the law says (Read Section 203(h)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), you better feel a wee bit angry. When the law is written in your favor but an agency is entitled to an arbitrary and capricious deference that it uses to persecute and separate you from your family, and deny you legal rights, there is little else to feel besides anger.
This “privileged dreamer” just paid $800 in taxes to the state of California. And I have to appear in an Immigration Court in California for removal proceedings. That’s anything but privilege.