Friday, November 25, 2016

On being the right kind of immigrant...

I tried to not get political in 2016, mostly because my family lean heavily Republican and I tip slightly the other way. And as for British politics, well, I'm not a citizen and have been fairly careful in my opinions because I am on outsider. But something's got me thinking this morning, and opinions long held in are springing to the surface.

Blame NPR for this one. More specifically, "This American Life." Damn you, Ira Glass!!! It was the post election show, titled, "The Sun Comes Up," which I listened to via podcast. And they were talking about the election result and the impact it would have on immigration. They interviewed immigration lawyers and also a family of Brits living in the U.S. And I got slightly terrified (side bar--is it possible to be only SLIGHTLY terrified?).

Brexit freaked me out, as well. An entire country, which I have happily called home for over a decade, basically decided that they hated immigrants and wanted to cut themselves off from Europe as a result. When I woke up on the morning after the referendum and found out how the country had voted, my heart sank. I felt unwelcome here for the first time since I arrived. One of my friends commented on Facebook that she (also an immigrant) felt the same way, and one of the responses to that comment was that she wasn't THAT kind of immigrant. You know, one of the bad ones. She was the RIGHT kind of immigrant.

Apparently, I am also the "right" kind of immigrant. And the weird thing is, we are also the "right" kind of white person (oh yes, in England that is definitely a thing)! I'm not eastern European. Because my Polish ancestors immigrated to America 200 years ago, I am saved from being one of the "bad" immigrants. Seriously, the whole concept is horrible to me.

What exactly makes someone the "right" kind of immigrant? In this case, my friend is Canadian and a native English speaker. She is married to a nice Englishman, and they have two lovely kids who are 100% Yorkshire. She's even become a British citizen now. But she came here on a work visa, with a good education, a job offer, and nothing else. She wasn't particularly desirable as an immigrant then, but she is now. You don't know if someone is going to be an asset to your country until they are!

And now, this immigrant is attempting to take her very English husband and drop him back into a country that has just declared an unofficial war on immigrants. And, once again, we are dealing with the fact that he is also the "right" kind of immigrant. He is a white native English speaker with an American wife.

I didn't ask anyone in my family who they were voting for. Mostly because I was afraid of what the answer might be. But I hope they didn't vote for the man who vowed to stop immigration. Illegal immigration, yes. But also legal immigration for the "bad" immigrants.

When you look like everyone else, and you don't sound TOO different, people tend to forget that you are an outsider. But, speaking as one who has been an outsider for the past eleven years, you never forget. And people say horrible things, like immigration reform is top priority, like we need to stop letting people in to our country, like even the people who come here legally aren't really welcome. And it hurts. I only hope that nobody in my family believes those things--on either side of the pond!

Immigration policy is totally up in the air right now. With Donald Trump on the cusp of his presidency and a Republican controlled House and Senate, I am honestly worried that Martin won't get his green card. We are still waiting for an appointment from the U.S. Embassy. What if they are holding off until Trump is sworn in, to see what changes will be made? And even if everything goes to plan, is it ok for me to bring my children, with their very foreign accents, to live in a country where over 50% of the people decided they don't want outsiders being let in? Or will they be fine, since they are the "right" kind of immigrants?

But we ARE still coming, regardless of my misgivings. Hopefully this coming crack down on immigration won't mean we have to stay in England forever. Because I miss my lovely family.

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