My Worst Nightmare

What is the first thing you picture when you hear the word “immigrant?”

Do you imagine unfamiliar faces, tanned by the beating sun, and covered in dirt? What are they wearing? Do they look exhausted, like they could use a drink of water, a warm meal, or a change of clothes? What does their hair look like? Their eyes?

Do they look anything like you or your own family?

The United States of America— a country founded by immigrants, and yet the very word seems to have this negative weight to it.

I would know; I am an immigrant, and I have experienced the stigma carried by that word my whole life.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering, “Wait, is she even legal?” People always seem so intrigued and so fast to jump to conclusions.

Yes, yes I am legal. Yes, I have a green card. No, it’s not actually green.  

I was born in Colombia and my parents migrated to this country when I was very little. We came in “the right way.” We were approved by the system and rewarded the rights of legal residents.  The same rights and laws that protect you, protect me.   *Or do they?*

Our country has changed drastically in just a short amount of time.

Just a few weeks ago, legal residents were detained at airports, and told they could not enter their home or host country.

Legal residents.

Detained under a xenophobic decree hastily justified as an act of surveillance and safety for all Americans.  **The irony: if you are protecting Americans, then why detain these American residents? **

Although the ban was deemed unconstitutional and paused thanks to the work of ACLU, I think about the fact that a precedent for discrimination has been set.

The reality of our current nation is this: if you stand out just enough, you may be detained.

People use to make fun of me for carrying my card with me everywhere I went, and I would always half-jokingly say, “You never know when you’re going to need it.” Now here I am, questioning the power and safety net that was my green card.

Over the last two weeks, over 6 states have implemented random immigration enforcement raids. Homes and workplaces in: Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, North Carolina, and South Carolina have been raided and hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been detained and will be deported. **Some of these people didn’t even have criminal records. **

It no longer seems too farfetched to think that I could be mistaken as one.

 I could be at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

 I could look a little to suspicious, or a little too foreign.

 While I’m sure they would eventually figure out that I am here legally, just the fact that I could be questioned is chilling. 

This is the reality many people are facing.

What is the first thing you picture, when you hear the word “immigrant?”

How would you feel if this were happening to you?