Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Colonial (In)Security

I take my status for granted. As a Puerto Rican born in the United States mainland , I was granted citizenship at birth. My parents, born on the island colony of Puerto Rico, also became United States citizens at birth. My Grandparents, born on Puerto Rico as well, one day woke up as United States citizens. No one asked them if they wanted this status. Yesterday the sick safety of my colonial state weighed heavy on me.

I had to take two young men to the Office of Homeland Security, formally known as INS, and always pronounced in whispers or screams as la Migra. They were to get their permanent resident status as per a letter sent to their home where they live with their parents. The father, a legal resident, was working and their mother, undocumented, wouldn't dare get within a thousand feet of 26 Federal Plaza.

Naively I thought the nervousness energy the boys had was because of excitement until the older boy of 16 verbalized , miedo/fear.

We all knew the stories. We all knew people it had happened to. People called to the glass building on routine business, to get a passport stamped, then taken away, detained, and deported. Their own mother feared it. She feared being taken from her children and the hard life she led here in the United States.

"Who is the President of Puerto Rico?" the 10 year old asked me in the waiting room as numbers flashed and hands nervously twisted around themselves.
"Puerto Rico doesn't have a president. It is a colony so the United States Federal laws and President G. W. Bush technically govern but Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico cannot vote for president or really have any say in the Federal laws they must follow," I replied thinking about the scary faces of the Shrub and Cheney that coldly greeted us when we earlier passed through metal detectors.

The 10 year old proudly told me the name of the president of his country. That's when it hit me, hard, the realization of the terror, the fear, the insecurity.
"I'm scared," the 16 year old told me fighting back tears deemed unmanly.
What if it all was a trick? Yes all of their paperwork was in order. I had made sure of that over the past few years. I had a lawyer make sure all of that over the past few years. But since when was paperwork or laws an impediment to the United States government? They had a country to be sent back to. Their parents, especially their mother, living just under the radar screen had a nation to return to, by force or by choice. I, a colonial subject from the day I was pushed into this world, am relatively safe, free to travel, free to return to an island with no president. Where would they deport a Rican to? I would be locked away for being unamerican (read un-United States ish) or seditious, like so called members of the FALN, like Haydee, Carlos, Oscar etc.

The boys were given their permanent residence and the woman of color behind the Plexiglas counter congratulated them. I heard them exhale.

Later last night I was watching Persons of Interest on Sundance and I cried, sobbed, shook with sadness and fear and anger. People of color disappearing and I think of my daughter and the legacy of disappearance she carries in her bloodstream, from Chilean stadiums to Federal prisons. And I am reminded again, I like so many, can be taken away, hidden in a cell, but they will not, cannot send me away. Not yet anyway. Safety is so relative.



2 Comments:

Blogger claudia said...

wow, i never really knew about puerto rico's situation. thanks for learning something today, mama
love, Yunape

9/29/2004 04:32:00 AM  
Blogger mean regression said...

this is a really awesome piece of writing. i hope millions of people see it.

9/30/2004 02:38:00 PM  

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