Over the weekend, my little brother and I tore up a box Mommy brought home. It held a small Christmas tree. We dressed it up with characteristically inartistic style. The last time we saw a Christmas tree in our home was the winter of ’07.
I realize I’m lucky to have known a united family and to have a family, albeit smaller over the years. I’m also blessed to have my mother near—even when she’s working 12 hours, 5 days a week, and studying English on Saturday mornings. At least, we’re in the same city, state, and country.
I’m not living my brother’s story: a home divided because his love is divided. I’m not living my half-sister’s story: a father who sends letters occasionally, and a mother who sends an allowance from los estados unidos. I’m definitely not living the life of an undocumented immigrant. I’m not out in the nation’s capital fasting for families (though it’s tempting).
As a legal temporary resident, finding means to pay for school tuition terrifies me, but I’ve yet to know the fear of being separated from my mother. El Salvador’s levels of poverty, crime, and natural disaster are very real. It’s the exceptional struggle of my native country that granted me rights to stay here, and it’s the struggles of Central American countries that have led many families to America.
People forget the immigration debate is not just over Latinos. Ju Hong, a UC Berkeley student from South Korea reminded me today that we’re also talking Asian Pacific Islander. When he interrupted President Obama’s speech earlier today, I’m guilty of feeling shame. I thought, that’s not classy. Immigration advocates are not simply yellers, and that’s the message President Obama seems to have taken.
Our youth are more than rebellious against authority. Young people are encouraged to be active in the political community, but when they speak out against injustices they’re reprimanded. Ju Hong has even been arrested in the past for his protests, and may have been arrested by security today if it weren’t for Mr. Obama’s patience.
Though I’m in disagreement with Hong’s outburst, there are rare moments when a young person gets a voice, nationally. A president visiting your state was one of them. And after all, with Thanksgiving around the corner, we can’t forget that there are families that will not spend this holiday season together.