Forced ambivalence and the simplification of immigration issues “because I said so”

This is a post I started several weeks ago, so I wanted to finish it. It starts below:

Just read an interesting August 27th blog entry by Maira Kalman of the NYT. At first, I was excited to see another voice speaking in what seemed like support of immigration. As I kept reading down the page though, it became evident that Kalman’s position is ridiculously simplified and makes assumptions about the nature of immigration, “legal” and “illegal.” While she reflects on and seemingly celebrates the diversity seen in her neighborhood in (I assume) Brooklyn, she naively rejects the overwhelming facts of the unjust immigration system currently in place in the United States. At first glance, she seems very supportive of some sort of change to the system; yet gradually, any observant reader will realize that she’s advocating the status quo; if not the status quo, at least the willful ignorance that pervades this country, the idea that if it doesn’t concern you, you can simply ignore it and move on.

Posting a blog entry full of non-sequiturs (both illustrations and cutesy ideas) does not excuse you from this statement:

“What of the 12 million people living here who are undocumented? They are here illegally. Do they deserve to stay? There are groups lobbying for immigration reform. At community centers you meet dedicated organizers and undocumented people, and you think these are GREAT people and they CANNOT be sent back to their countries of origin. The problems are SUBSTANTIAL: Health care. Employment. Taxes. Detention facilities. Impenetrable bureaucracies. Is it naïve of me to think, while acknowledging the myriad problems, that the system is basically just?”

What in the world lead Kalman to believe that the system is just? Could it be the separation of families due to the flawed petition/visa system? Could it be the deportation of US citizens to Mexico? Maybe she doesn’t know how USCIS has broken the law, time after time, by not allowing derivative beneficiaries of green card petitions to maintain original priority dates; I am one of those beneficiaries, as are several others I know. Instead of being productive members of society, we’re forced to wait ten more years while USCIS plays the “because I said so” card. Or could it be selective memory? After all, Kalman herself is an immigrant.

Perhaps she should take a good look at what is happening in this country before making such statements and then following them up with shows of appreciation for diversity through images of mango lasse drinks and boxes of cookies from Pakistan. “Think small,” she says, “It helps me handle the complicated too-muchness[sic] of it all.”

Gee, Maira, could you think any smaller than the last sentence of your blog? “Happy to be here,” are you? Maybe you should be the first to get back in line.

12 thoughts on “Forced ambivalence and the simplification of immigration issues “because I said so”

  1. Yeah, it's a tough decision.

    I've read about half of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was good, but I need to finish it. I've also not read any Southern authors, although I got through half of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, which was insanely difficult.

  2. If I go and the DA passes soon after I'll feel cheated but if I stay and end up languishing for 1,2…etc more years I'll hate myself more and oh it's such a double edged sword.

    As for books/authors I haven't read, well most of the Russian/Eastern European authors, like Tolstoy, Chekov. I have a friend who always said I'd like The Unbearable Lightness of Being but I still haven't read it yet. As for American authors I wish I took a class on the American South b/c I feel like I should've read more Faulkner, Twain. But I'm sure a lot of English majors feel that way and if we stay in school long enough I'm sure we'll eventually hit those books lol.

  3. Yeah, she assigned Jasmine in her own class. That novel is so problematic. I did not like it. What books have you not read that you think you should have? My list includes “Ulysses” and Proust's “In Search of Lost Time.”

    Don't give up. It's only a matter of time until the DA passes, I'm very sure of it. You're not old at 23! I'm 25…

    But if you do go, you should start a blog about your journey.

  4. Ooh that sucks that she wasn't a good lecturer. I've only read Jasmine and I have to say I wasn't blown away by it but I still think her voice is important. Don't you hate it when you haven't read “important” books and feel like you're missing out on so much? There are so many where I'm always like “oh I should read that” or “I should've taken that class” darn.

    FAU does have an MFA program, and even though it's probably not the best, it's small and the faculty is very hands on about giving good guidance and all that jazz. But I won't be applying there. I think I'm about to give up and move back to wherever I came from (which would be Trinidad). It does feel a bit ironic with Obama now prez and that was supposed to be a good thing (which it is but in terms of CIR, who knows?) But I'm old at 23 and moving scares the shit out of me but I'm going to do it. Hopefully going through all this crap for so many years has made us stronger and we can deal w/any circumstance from here on out? I guess I'll see. Maybe I should start a blog about it…lol

  5. Haha, Bharati was cool (and told really good stories), but she was a horrible lecturer. I had a lecture course on the novel (2 hour class) with her and it was absolutely horrible. But then again, I did read Disgrace, The Great Gatsby (finally), and Heart of Darkness (finally) in that class, so I'm very thankful for that.

    I think the only positive thing that has happened since I graduated is that I don't have to spend money on rent or tuition. Other than that, I wish I was still in school, or at least still in Berkeley.

    FAU has an MFA program though, and Berkeley doesn't, so there's something to think about. And anyway, I think the important point is that you and I have both graduated (congrats!) under extremely fucked up circumstances, and we're still here, living our lives and not giving up.

  6. Florida Atlantic University, not quite Berkeley (and I never had Bharati Mukherjee commenting on my papers lol) but still a good school. But since I've graduated (in '08) now I really feel like I'm flying blind! Oh how I miss the comforts of class!


  7. I just read her post and completely agree with your commentary. “…that the system is basically just” It's so easy for people who've never had immigration problems to think that it's basically a good system which is probably why nothing ever gets done w/reform. the status quo is “basically just” for american voters. Well I'm glad that Kalman chick is able to wander about town appreciating all the wonderful diverse culture we immigrants can provide for her in the form of lassi drinks and cookies. She really understands our plight, no?

    btw – I'm a fellow “dreamer” (also a recent english grad) who lurks on your blog from time to time.


  8. by not allowing derivative beneficiaries of green card petitions to maintain original priority dates; I am one of those beneficiaries, as are several others I know”

    yeap. get in line. then when you do. we'll fuck you over.

  9. This is not a reference to your previous post, is it?

    Coz that really intrigued me =D

    I think you should write to her and tell her about everything you've said here. She needs to know.

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