Imperialism and the Good Immigrant
“Don’t become a criminal,” is what the white immigration officer told me as a kid when my green card was approved. He said that as soon as he told me to become a professional—a good immigrant.
Those words had a lasting effect on me—to be a good immigrant. What does that even mean? To be humble? To be respectful? To be resourceful? To yield to authority? To peacock to white Americans and become an imperialist? Those are things that a lot of immigrants become. It’s depressing.
Even DACA recipients, the “good immigrants,” are somewhat of a protected class that both liberals and conservatives are willing to bat for because they can be used as a weapon and a shield against the “bad immigrants.” There’s an estimated number of 700,000-800,000 of young people enrolled, and though they’ve been maliciously left in limbo for political reasons, it’s undeniable that their status takes a big chunk of the conversation about Latinidad in the media in comparison to the undocumented (an estimate of 10 million) and documented (an estimate of 50 million) Latinx in the US. Many DACA guerreros are hip to this and combat it as much as possible. They know they are given preference over their undocumented parents, their aunts, their uncles, their cousins, their friends… and rebuke the “good immigrant” narrative. And many documented immigrants, such as myself, are aware that we take precedent over Latinx families that have been part of this nation for decades: in the media, in Hollywood, in corporate America. American born Latinx folks come second to us. And that’s to keep all of us as the perpetual immigrant—as the quintessential “other.” An “other” that is believed to be here through our own accord instead of being forced to flee.
It’s a narrative that starts in the States, as soon as we step inside those imaginary lines. It’s a narrative that omits a bigger issue that oppresses and claims many lives: Imperialism. It’s an imperialism that is hardly spoken about. I’ve heard it all from nationalists who abhor the presence of immigrants, documented or undocumented: that they’re losing jobs, positions of power, quotas… because of us. [That may be true of African Americans, but that’s not something that immigrants are to blame for].
They told us we should go back to our “shit-hole” countries and fix our problems ourselves. A problem they refuse to admit they created—the US created. There’s a long history of US intervention in Latin America. Every single time Latin American people try to democratically (or rightfully violently) oust corrupt and barbaric right-wing regimes that do the bidding of US international corporations, they invade or assist with a coup. The US has a nasty history of arming or assisting any way they can those who oppose leftist governments, Black and indigenous people defending their land, and their sovereignty, to the detriment of the entire world.
Our activists have been getting killed for centuries. Even today, many are losing their lives all over Latin America: In Colombia, in Brazil, in Honduras… you name the country and you will find a trail of death and destruction that can be linked back to the States. The entirety of Latin America is under parasitic, capitalistic, imperialistic siege. And many of us are fleeing to the belly of The Beast for, ironically, protection from The Beast. We naturally seek to better our lives, the lives of our children, the lives of our family and friends. Self-preservation is ingrained in all living creatures. We’re not exempt from this.
“Bad immigrants” aren’t just the criminals, as many of you know. Please note that immigrants are the least likely to commit crimes and they’re “ less likely to be incarcerated than natives; and an analysis by the Criminology academic journal that found, if anything, undocumented immigration led to a decrease in violent crime.” By “bad immigrants” they mean anyone who becomes aware of the monstrosity our people face, the criminally ahistorical takes we are forced to listen to in schools, in churches, in corporate America, in the media… and pushing against the lies, the gaslighting, by refusing to embrace a civility that only benefits the status quo that’s killing us. The tone-policing and respectability politics we’re subjected to by white Americans and even the “good immigrants” are real. Many immigrants and the children of immigrants become outright conservatives and conservative-lite. It’s mind-boggling.
It is imperialistic, racist, xenophobic to become a “good immigrant.” Many go as far as to join the military, a political party, an org, a corporation… to show white America that they are just like them—or at least aspire to be. That they belong to the empire as much as anybody else. It’s sad. It’s pathetic. What’s worse, it’s not done in a way to improve the lives of our people—solely for the benefit of the individual. We’re not ignorant to how corrosive rugged-individualism is, but we’ve embraced it like no other—perhaps more than white Americans in our hot pursuit to belong in the house of our brutal tormentors.
You can’t possibly love a country and its people if you enable its brutality. That’s what a “good immigrant” does. They become the handles to the axes that come to tear us down. These people are rewarded beautifully, by the way. By white institutions and even our own Hispanic industrial complex. An industrial complex that punishes those trying to do better for our people.
We deserve better, folks. And becoming a “good immigrant” ain’t it.
If combatting abuse makes me a “bad immigrant” then I’ll become your “bad immigrant.”
I’ll be bad to the bone.
Thanks for reading and sharing with your family and friends.
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