I had never really thought about it – where I was born, who I was born to, or even what the implications of being born are. It wasn’t until right before the last presidential election that I was confronted with my own privilege; the privilege that exists in merely being born in the United States. Just by being born, I was given the privilege to work. The privilege to travel freely between borders (usually without a visa). The privilege to exist outside the shadows. I hesitate to use the word privilege because I didn’t earn any of it – and when I was a kid, a privilege was something you earned. It doesn’t matter – I didn’t earn any of it. Perhaps you could argue that my great (great-great? great-great-great??) grandparents earned it, but I don’t know anything about their story, so I couldn’t tell you if we “earned” it or not.
This realization brought me to tears as I realized that so many of the students that I fight for on a daily basis are at risk for having their work permits revoked, or worse yet, being deported, having their families deported, or any other horrors that I can’t possibly imagine. The fact that we require people to live in the shadows in this country is appalling to me. Many of those who would be impacted by the revocation of DACA were brought here as children. They did not choose this life. They have, however, worked legally, paid taxes, and contributed to society in a positive and meaningful way. Many of my DACA students outperform their citizen peers in one way or another. I have many DACA students who have graduated from college with degrees in high-need fields. They are filling a void in this country; why do we believe it is okay to relegate humans to the shadows? Some don’t even speak Spanish, they have assimilated so well. Others have grown up believing they were citizens, only to find out differently when they started applying to college. You can blame their parents (if that makes you feel better), but that doesn’t change the lack of humanity and how we treat people that we deem as not having “earned” the privilege to be here.
And while we’re talking about privilege to be here…
I have served high schools with large refugee populations. Their stories aren’t different from my DACA students, but the difference is that we’ve deemed them refugees and awarded them asylum. We’ve given them immediate status without a waiting list. We have immigration lotteries for countries we deem to be “more worthy” of awarding immigration to. I don’t seek to take anything away from those students or families, but let’s not pretend that there’s a huge difference between the two stories.
Human is human, at least how I was raised.
Consider this. What did you do to deserve to be here? I’m not asking what your parents did, what your grandparents did, or what any other family member did. Why are you here? How did you get here? What privileges did you earn by merely existing?
I’m not asking whether you worked hard.
Whether you got a fancy degree.
I’m asking what you did to earn the right to live outside of the shadows and without fear.
For me, it just so happened that I was born into the right zip code to two parents who also happened to be born into the right zip code on the north side of the border.
And for that, birth is a privilege.
Call your congressmen and women.