Immigration and How It Affects Families
I had Jeanette as a student in my ethics course this past spring and her blog post was absolutely gripping and moving. Her candor and vulnerability were inspiring and transformed her blog post into a call for change. These are extremely challenging and heart-wrenching issues to discuss but Jeanette courageously shared her and her family's experiences while integrating the course material seamlessly. When I read this, I was pulled into her family's story and felt that this needed to be shared with the rest of the world.
Written by: Jeanette Aguirre
This is my mother’s story about immigration and how it has affected our family and others in the country.
This is my family. My stepfather, my mother, my brothers, and my sister. In this photo my mother was a resident of the United States. She came to America at the age of 5. My grandparents were immigrants from Mexico. They came to this country in the 1950’s to work in the fields in California. They had 10 children. They came to America because they couldn’t afford to support 10 children in Mexico on the wages they were receiving. They are from a small village called Cupareo, Guanajuato. There were only dirt roads, one small store, and one Catholic church in the entire village. My grandparents came to the U.S. first to establish their residency and then brought their children several years later. They would travel back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. My mother remembers coming to America and calling her mother “señora” (means Mrs. in English) because she didn’t know her mother. My grandparents left my mother in Mexico when she was an infant with one of their sisters. My mother knew my grandma was her mother but didn’t feel the connection to her to call her mom. She remembers all 10 siblings and my grandparents living in a trailer behind the fields in California.
My grandparents experienced oppression when they came to the states. They didn’t have any education, they had to take the jobs given to them to make money and racism was still very real. My grandparents decided to rent a place of their own instead of living in the housing the field workers were given. They talked about the abuse that would happen in the fields. Not only during work hours but also in the housing units. Women would be raped, and the men would be beaten if they interfered. They were all undocumented and their relatives had no way of knowing their whereabouts. They had to accept the abuse because it was their only means of making it in America and going back to their country was not an option.
My mother often spoke about how my grandparents were always working, day, night and even on weekends. My mother got hand-me downs from her sisters. She never got new shoes, or anything new because although my grandparents were always working, they could only just afford to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. My mother and her siblings had to raise themselves because my grandparents couldn’t. At the age of 14 my mother was kicked out of her home because she didn’t come home one night. In those times if you didn’t come home, it meant you lost your virginity and unless you were getting married to that man you were no longer worthy to stay in your home. This to me is sexist because if her brothers didn’t come home, they had no repercussions. It wasn’t just the times she lived in but also the Mexican culture that believed once you lost your virginity you were no longer worthy of marriage.
This led my mother to make poor choices in men and poor choices in life in general. My mother endured violence, sexism, marginalization, and so much more. My grandparents were my mother’s role models. She saw them go through so much just to keep them in America and to have a better life. My mother took that and did what she thought was best at the time when she had no other choice but to keep moving forward with her children any way she could. Because of this my mom was caught on theft charges and battery. She finally stood up to the man that was abusing her, my father, and she was arrested for it. She had to pay the price. In 2012 my mother was stopped by I.C.E coming back into the country from Mexico. She was 37 years old. She had only gone to Mexico a handful of times to visit family there. She didn’t have a job, house, or support system in Mexico yet. I.C.E took her into custody because she had charges when she was in her late teens. My mother had already gone and came from Mexico after her record without any problem.
They cannot lie to get into your home. You also have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a lawyer. These are things that most immigrants don’t know.
She was now a mother of 5. She was a supervisor at a warehouse. She was a grandmother and a wife to a great man, My stepfather. She had just got a house in the city and a new car. ICE didn’t care about any of that. They didn’t care that she served her time. They didn’t care that those charges she had were before she turned 20. They didn’t care about what she went through to be where she was then. They didn’t care that she still had 4 children under the age of 14 that still needed her. All they cared about was that they caught a criminal, and she was on her way out of the country.
My mother spent 4 months in a detention center in Texas. None of us ever saw her there. We would barely get any calls from her. We were living in Illinois at the time so we couldn’t just drive over there. My stepfather and I had to split my siblings while she was detained. My father gave up their home and their new car just to be able to afford a good lawyer to get her released. We didn’t know if she would ever come home. My mother was the glue of our family and without her we didn’t know how to manage everything. We were devastated thinking about her being deported. What would we do? How was I going to raise my siblings alone? My stepfather was an immigrant too. He would have to stay in Mexico if he left the country. The sad part is that ICE is supposed to deport criminals. The bad ones. The felons, the rapist, the murderers, the ones who affect everyone in this country - not the mothers who got caught stealing clothing from a department store or got charged with battery for defending herself from her abuser.
ICE has a daily quota set up to apprehend immigrants in the country, detain them, and throw them out of the country. They have no regard for why they are here, who they are leaving behind. The fact that many immigrants came here as children and have known nothing else but America. They don’t care that they will be homeless in their country because some immigrants don’t have anyone that they can stay with there. Virtue ethics is not something that applies to this type of law enforcement. They don’t think about the “what should I be?” (Vaughn 164) They are focused on meeting the daily quota of detainees required. Immigrants are people, yet they are talked about as an object. As a mere thing needing to leave this country. There is a way of getting residency to be in America but that takes years! Some immigrants are running from their country to save their lives. Because of mafias, cartels, and even corrupt governments.
Immigrants don’t need to be held in cages and children especially don’t need to be held in cages and separated from their parents or loved ones. Immigrants are not animals. Immigrants shouldn’t endure abuse at the hands of authority.
There are so many families ripped apart with no regard to anyone else but immigration protocol. They don’t care if they are not coming home to their children. They don’t care if the person they are taking is the sole provider, they don’t care if the person they are deporting doesn’t even know the language in that country because they have lived in America their whole lives. In 2017, Trump revoked DACA by 2018 and deported thousands of immigrants. Those who were given a sanction to stay and work in the U.S. legally were getting their privileges taken away. Because of racism! Not because it impacted the country negatively but because it was for the government’s selfish needs of authority. This to me shows that the U.S. government has no morals. They do not know what ethics are. They are one-sided because they don’t even stop to consider anyone else but themselves. "Selfish acts advance one's own interests regardless of how others are affected." (Vaughn 93) This is what America really is. In this scenario, if America was the train from Mill’s Utilitarianism, they would make sure to turn the train on all tracks and take out everyone in sigh not sparing the life of anyone because of their immigration status.
Immigration detention centers across the country need to be shut down. Immigrants deserve the right to be apprehended in a way that does not disturb their life and give them the proper notice to fight their case to stay in the country. Immigrants don’t need to be held in cages and children especially don’t need to be held in cages and separated from their parents or loved ones. Immigrants are not animals. Immigrants shouldn’t endure abuse at the hands of authority. They shouldn’t be neglected at the hands of authority. DACA needs to be signed as a law to protect those already approved and those who still need it. Growing up I remember my family checking the window before they opened the door to make sure the ones knocking weren’t ICE because if you don’t answer the door, they can’t just break in. They must also tell you who they are. They cannot lie to get into your home. You also have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a lawyer. These are things that most immigrants don’t know.
After ten years of fighting her case, my mother was given her residency to stay in the country. It was honestly the biggest relief I have ever had. The weight on my shoulders was only getting heavier not knowing what was going to happen. The responsibility would fall on me to raise my brothers because Mexico is not an option for them. My mother would have to start over again in another country and Mexico doesn’t have welfare or aids to help you in tough times. Although I am extremely grateful that we won the battle with immigration I know that there are families who did not. I know too many friends, family and loved ones who are across the border not ever being able to see their family again because they are immigrants too. When a loved one passes away, they can’t come into the country or go to Mexico to be there for their funeral. It is devastating to know that this is still happening today. Immigrants are being treated poorly; they are not given their rights. They are being forced out of the country unexpectedly.
I wrote about my story and what my mother went through as a child because I want you to know that you are not alone. Your family is not alone. There is someone out there now going through the same thing. I believe we all choose our paths. Even if our upbringing is not good, we must decide how we want our life to turn out.
Unfortunately, there are times when our loved ones seek a better life even if that means breaking the law. In my mother circumstance she chose to live her life in a way that would come back to get her when she least expected it. I am grateful however that my grandparents chose to come to America because I honestly would not be here today. I stand with immigrants because I am the daughter of one, the granddaughter, the niece, the sister and even the friend. So, when you are looking down on others because they live differently than you or because they are here illegally, take a step back and say to yourself, “what should I be?” (Vaughn 164).
Vaughn, Lewis. "Doing Ethics Moral Reasoning, Theory, and Contemporary Issues Sixth Edition." Vaughn, Lewis. Doing Ethics Moral Reasoning, Theory, and Contemporary Issues Sixth Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2022. 8-11.