I have a dream, a total fantasy, of what it could mean to be an immigrant artist. In this dream I am still me, nothing has changed, but I can literally write about anything other than immigration. I can write about the homoerotic relationships of male bison – in my own voice, not with a sly British baritone steadfastly telling stories about dominant males and the hierarchy of dominance. I could write about the hard work of rehabilitating German Shepherds after a career spent working as traumatized and armed K-9s for problem police departments. Maybe I could write about bees.
I would like to do all this, but on the contrary, I am brought back, always, without ceasing, to immigration. For political debates and to talk about solutions and stories, stories, stories.
First, the public demands it: because I am a former undocumented Latin American writer, I am always asked to play the role of activist and talker, to sing the Greek opera about my childhood. After releasing my first book last spring, I did what ended up being a year of press on Zoom, and for the first few months I diverted the inevitable questions about immigration policy or my early years in Ecuador. before my family came to America. with my talkative signature protest. Then I asked my partner, a professor who doesn’t mince words, to tell event planners that I wasn’t talking about politics, especially Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy, and I wasn’t talking about politics. haven’t talked about my own childhood separation.
I don’t do it because I don’t want to and because it’s not my fucking job. I’m just not interested in politics. It’s a language I don’t understand. It’s advanced calculus, and I went to a high school that stopped teaching trig. And politics is pain. I turned off my Google notifications for “ICE” and “undocumented immigrant” because human suffering can plunge me deeper into my already engaged relationship with Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut. As a human and an artist, I want to be able to free myself from what makes me suffer instead of having to grab hold of it for stories and then sell myself by the blues.
But others love the pain; pain is exactly what they like. They extol my bravery when they read my work, then pull out the mounting pins from my bell – queer, brown, Latina, undocumented immigrant. Foreigners love to roll R’s under a name no one I love calls me. Karrrla, says when Karla is a choice, exaggerating it like they’re trying to talk through marshmallows stuffed in their mouths.
I might decide to quit and try my luck writing on television for a living. But I am very good at writing about immigration. It helps me remember that we are people first, capable of the full spectrum of human emotions and behavior. And I write because I see my reporting and my art as a moving payment to my parents for giving up their upper limbs, their health and their right to self-determination so that I can make a living typing. words in an air- conditioned room. Who helps. If I didn’t write about immigrants, like I write about immigrants, I would drink all the time, because there aren’t enough other people doing it.
The treatment that this country has accorded to immigrants has been so inhuman that there must be a toll not only of injustice and grave suffering, but also of deep humanity, dignity, humor and character. The Beat reporters, journalists, essayists and documentary filmmakers have taken great care to document not only the injustices but also the lives that continue, the people who continue to live, not in the shadows but in the streets that are under the sun, shade, sun, shade — all on the same same block. With parents risking the death of their children due to migration to avoid the certainty of their children being tortured at home, we need a case.
And so I write. I’ve written tens of thousands of words, both fiction and non-fiction, most with extreme levels of cortisol in their blood, to come up with the same old plea: a plea for those in power to create a world in which migrants can be people. So maybe migrant artists can be free.
This world begins with a path to legalization for undocumented Americans that is closer to amnesty than what the current Congress favors. It also requires a world in which open borders are not treated as a far-fetched political goal to be achieved in our lifetime, but as a worldview that informs how we approach all sentient beings, especially those of our species. .
I don’t like to compare human migrants to migratory species. Human migrants should inspire a deeper and more complicated affect than the miraculous call of a goose flying at night. But, to that end, I know that anyone I meet who gets heated about an ‘invasive’ bird species in a suburb is not someone I would feel safe with as a woman. brunette, migrant, and this is where there is a similarity. Some of us are considered parasites.
As long as I continue to feed the baby starlings in my backyard, I will continue to write about immigrants, because none of us are welcome – and I suspect that means forever.