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i'm jaded, but i'm human
humanity should always win out
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)

Thousands of people have taken to the streets across the nation this May Day, in a march asking for immigration reform, i.e., to allow those who've entered the US illegally to become citizens. I'm pro-immigration. I believe that this country, in particular, should continue to be a place for people to turn to when the going gets tough back home.

As some of you may recall, I wrote a column a few months ago about my difficult journey to become a US citizen. The journey began back in 2004 and I'm still twiddling my thumbs waiting for the FBI to make sure I'm a good girl.

I possess a green card; I have done everything legally along with my family from the moment I set foot on American soil 18 years ago. I pay my taxes and have seen my dollars, perhaps, put to work to my benefit-- although the government does a lot of things with my money I do not approve of, but I digress. I love my local library's resources; I got a few grants to get me through college, and had a bout of unemployment where I was able to receive pay that sustained me for a while. I am thankful for these things, but these things sure didn't come for free financially, or laboriously.

I've done the work, and paid the bill. Shouldn't illegal immigrants have to start from scratch to level the playing field?

Although I don't approve of illegal immigration, because I had to do the work and pay the money and stand in endless lines--figuratively and literally-- I have mixed feelings about the issue.

The human/humane side of me recognizes the plights of those who've had to go the illegal route, as the world is full of horror that those with opportunity, i.e., Americans, cannot fathom. I've heard stories of people who came to this country illegally to escape political persecution or just for medical care unavailable in their neck of the woods. Most of the time, the care is for sick babies or children with serious illnesses. Other stories are for simple survival and putting food on the table for their families.

In college, I watched a documentary about a migrant worker family. The family was large, with the father, mother, two teenage boys, a young girl, and I believe a baby boy, along with the grandmother. They were immigrants, and migrant workers. They traveled across the US looking for work on farms, where the father and two teenage boys would pick fruits and vegetables, getting paid cents by the bucket. Along the way, a child gets sick and needs to go to the doctor, their truck breaks down and needs repairs, and a stop at McDonald's is out of the question, as meals have to be made from scratch.

And to think, they escaped from something worse.

It was a very sobering and sad documentary, and it opened my eyes to a way of life I can't imagine, and a humongous sacrifice many families must make for basic survival--a place to call home. I'm sure this family didn't want to leave their real home home, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And sometimes those desperate measures are illegal means.

The bitter, jaded, selfish and inconsiderate part of me says things like: "I've done the work, and paid the bill. So should you." And it's logical to think that way, when you take your humanity out of it. But humanity is necessary in cases like the migrant family's case, and the people desperate to get medical care, or even just a square meal for their children. The world is full of horror beyond that of 9/11, or Columbine, or Virginia Tech. As horrific as those events were, they at least had a moment when they ended, and all that's left is the hurt and the recovery process, which is difficult, yes, but we never fear losing our basics, not usually, anyway. Prozac and therapists among other comforts are at our fingertips to help us through the difficult times right where we are--at home.

For those desperate enough to become illegal immigrants in order to get paid cents by the bucket, their only solution is leaving their homes and becoming illegal immigrants. Of course, not all illegal immigrants have sad stories to justify the gamble they've taken, but those are few and far between, I think, and that's not the group I'm talking about.

I don't like the idea of illegal immigration, but I'm also realistic and believe that before this country separates families, and punishes those with no other choice but illegal means, it must make serious reforms to eliminate the need for illegal means in the first place. That is a long road that requires input from actual illegal immigrants and lawmakers, and I'm neither of those things, so I don't have an actual solution.

But illegal immigration is present, proof being today's marches and protests. It is something that must be taken care of, perhaps not with a full-on citizenship, but maybe with a plan that gives concerned parties a certain amount of time to get proper documentation to become at least legal, and then go the usual route that everyone else must take to become citizens of this country. That way, you level the playing field, and my bitter, jaded and selfish self disappears.

Humanity is too great a thing to waste on worrying about you and only you.


Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari


the mistake that rained on egypt's parade
did you bring your umbrella?
by reem al-omari
topic: news
published: 2.24.11

illegal immigrant with a pulitzer prize
something's wrong with this picture
by reem al-omari
topic: news
published: 6.29.11


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