This year I feel like I’ve been placed right in the middle of tense debates and discussions. Right between two groups of people who experience and think about immigration very differently. At times it was very challenging for me to hear the stark contrast between what different individuals would say, and to be in the midst of both groups, not fully part of either, but also no fully separate from either.
Below is a poem I wrote about bridge building between groups after experiencing a good amount of tension and frustration…
A suspension bridge only works when forces are acting upon it.
At the same time, thees forces must be taken into account for the bridge be able to do its job.
A pulling force,
Pulling something taught,
The way I think,
The way I act,
The way I see things,
A pressing force,
A pressing of an object,
As it is acted on by gravity,
Like a spring,
Getting closer and closer,
As winds of change and difference take a toll,
The winds of conflict and discouragement,
Hope being wrung out like a washcloth,
Only to be restored.
Forces pushing or pulling in opposite directions,
“We need to respect the rule of law”
“And protect our borders”
“I’m not sure what to believe”
“I need to protect my family”
“They should have come the legal way”
“I can’t imagine living separated from my children”
“Safety and security”
“My abusive husband is threatening to call immigration on me if I leave him”
and those are only the internal forces acting on the bridge…
[the dynamic load]
fear of terrorism,
fear of losing jobs,
fear of violence,
fear of uncertainties,
[the static load]
“They hate us”*
“Mexicans and white people can’t get along”*
All factors must be taken into consideration when building a bridge.
If not taken into account, a bridge will easily crumble and cause extreme damage.
*These two statement came from an activity I did with the middle schools during one of the after school programs. Our kids are predominantly of Mexican heritage, 1st or 2nd generation I would say for most. Many identify as an immigrant or as a family members of immigrants. I was asked to share about immigration because of my work with the immigration legal aid program. I decided to lead an activity with the kids determine “the truth” from “the lies”. I made a list of statements like “Jesus was an immigrant”, “The immigration system is complex”, etc. These two statements “They hate us” and “Mexicans and white people can’t get along”, were meant to be solidly on the “LIES” side of the board. But as I read them aloud, for both of the kids yelled a mix of, “Ummmmm”, “Ehhhhh”, “True!”, “not true”, “Yes”, etc. So I settled by putting these statements in the middle of the board, not absolute truth, but certainly not clearly false to them. I finished the activity with a tangible picture of how some of the kids in our programs see themselves and see others.