I’m Black, but I’m not African American. I’m actually Asian American. Born in Japan, with a Japanese birth certificate. My first language, my first culture, my first life was Nihongo. I am only one generation removed from Dai Nippon Teikoku, my mother’s family served the Imperial military and academic institutions.
Technically, I am Issei, not Nisei, which made me a foreign-born immigrant, and to be real, an illegal immigrant, by today’s nationalist sensibilities. I am very aware that I have many friends who have very strong feelings against illegals in this country, regardless of circumstances, who want every last one rounded up, kept in inhumane detention centers and deported back to wherever they came from.
In my case, had I arrived as a child in today’s political climate, I would have been torn from my fiercely-loving adoptive family and sent back to a land with no living relatives or friends waiting for my return. I am painfully aware that such scenarios are being played out right now for many children in the United States, re-orphaned, re-abandoned, re-neglected, en masse, just because of legal technicalities. Treated no differently than the so-called murderers and rapists the President claims to be getting rid of. Loving American families and households ripped apart by hostile xenophobic propaganda.
My story may be unique, but it’s not exclusive. In fact, the circumstances that made me illegal beyond anyone’s control are far more common now than in the 1970s of my childhood. The immigration system is far more broken now. The path to citizenship is far more exploitative, far more expensive, far more complicated, and far more backlogged than it was when my adopted family was trying to correct the bureaucratic failures that placed me in legal limbo. The children and families in that same limbo now? The law no longer cares that it’s the government’s fault, not the people’s. Pending legal is now no different than blatantly illegal. They are now facing detention and deportation while waiting for their legal paperwork to process. And as we are seeing, many of them are. Many of them already have since the new administration took over.
Want to Make America Great Again? Stop getting rid of the people who have dedicated their lives to exactly that. People like me. People who play by the rules of a broken system, and are treated like criminals for it. Families who are already making America Great in their daily lives. People who have served this country with distinction and honor, like military veterans, should not be deported because the US government can’t honor its own legal promises to them. Deported veterans is just as much an American travesty as homeless veterans.
I can understand and appreciate the value of ridding violent criminals who are in this country illegally, or who were here on the discretion of the justice system but failed to meet civic expectations based on their violent crimes. What I don’t get is the destruction of families over minor traffic violations, the removal of tax-paying green card-holders with racial profiling, or the dumping decorated war veterans south of the border because they can’t adequately control their PTSD. As a former child immigrant, I remember the daily anxiety of an uncertain future fueled by xenophobic bullying. It turns my stomach to know that bullying is now a legal mandate to destroy their lives, their futures, their families at unprecedented rates. Especially when I have to hear the stories from their remaining relatives and friends. My childhood fears are now being realized by children today in record numbers. And on top of that, my fellow servicemen, war-decorated and war-torn, are being punished by the government we all served proudly, with honor and distinction, for not being able to control the demons that those wartime sacrifices scarred them with.
#JusticeForAll, that’s all I want for America. We’ve all pledged that allegiance. We should all mean it.