I wasn’t leaving my parent’s house, just loading up my car and clearing my laundry baskets from the living room. As I loaded the trunk with my baskets, Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni looked on from their swing beneath the broad shade of la mora (the mulberry tree).
I put the second basket in, closed my trunk and walked over to them.
“Your trunk is big,” Papá Chepe observed. I didn’t argue or try to explain that my old car had a bigger trunk.
Mamá Toni agreed and added, “You can fit a couple of pollos in there. Two, no three, one on top.”
In case you’re unclear on the terminology, my grandparents had just sized up my car’s usefulness for smuggling migrants across the border.
I remained silent, took a seat between them, and listened as they told me about my cousin, V, and her husband who live in Arizona. Well, lived. V’s family is one of thousands of families with mixed immigration status and citizenship. She and her two daughters are citizens, but her husband is not. I had no clue about this until recently; it’s not as if I ask my family members if they are here legally or not. I’m unsure if V’s return to Zacatecas is related to SB 1070, but do know it has to do with her husband’s immigration status.
My grandparents didn’t seem worried or even saddened about V’s family’s move. They used the same matter-of-fact tone as they had discussed my trunk’s ampleness earlier. I was a little saddened. I rarely see my cousin and her family. I had just seen V reunited with her siblings and parents scattered from California to West Virginia in the spring for her niece’s First Communion reception. There were a lot of joyful tears at that surprise reunion.
That afternoon, I was once again reminded that I’m not as removed from the recent immigrant experience, especially that of undocumented immigrants, as I tend to believe. My mother and father’s families migrated legally in the 60s. They have the benefit of legal residency or US citizenship. My cousins were born here and thanks to the 14th Amendment, we’re all citizens too. We can access federal and state financial aid (yay loans!), work legally in this country, obtain an ID or driver’s license, and travel freely to Mexico. We don’t “live in the shadows” nor fear that local law enforcement will turn us in to ICE if stopped at random traffic checkpoints.
I get angry and upset over the lack of any real immigration reform, the stalling on the DREAM Act, and Arizona’s SB 1070. But it’s an anger over general injustice. It’s all kind of abstract until it affects my family.