“Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum” – Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down
That quote from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become a mantra. You can interpret “bastards” in many ways, an individual, a group of individuals, maybe the gods, those bastards could be close or strangers. The point is that whomever that person is, or those people are, you can’t let them destroy you. Although in the book Offred uses it as a source of strength, for the Commander and the powers of be is a joke and something to be ignored or forgotten until the opportunity arises for convenience (in this case a female’s ‘trust’).
That pretty much sums up my current situation.
On Saturday June 10th, 2017 I lost my family to the outdated Immigration System of the United States and the cruelty of the average population of the “beacon of light” that is the U.S.A. A month ago or so I was excited over going back to my home country to take care of my sick Grandmother through Advance Parole, but now it will be a bittersweet reunion with my Mom, Dad, and Brother.
I was only Five years old when I arrived to this country, my brother was 9 months old. I remember having a fractured ankle, and my brother’s cries, but I don’t recall entering the country, one moment I was stroking my brother’s chubby face, and the next my father was embracing me on strange city and strange street with a strange house. After that, everything is a blur, as it often happens to memories of your childhood. I remember watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Plaza Sesamo (Sesame Street), Dragon Ball Z, and my parent’s teachings. “Brush your teeth”, “take a shower”, “study”, “go to school, because many don’t have that opportunity”, “be good, even better than your friends because you are an immigrant”, these phrases were common in our home.
I hit puberty and I wanted to be an Egyptologist, my little brother only eight or nine years old wanted to be a Soldier and protect my mom and dad from evil people. By the age of thirteen, my brother read countless of books about WWI, WWII, The Civil War, and use to say he would join the Marines or the Army to protect us from potential future Nazis. When he was thirteen, I was already eighteen, and I knew the full meaning of being Undocumented, so I secretly wept for my brother. You see, when I was in the middle of 10th grade I decided, like many of my peers, that I will go to College. Naturally, I made an appointment with my counselor and she started suggesting FAFSA, but even as a teenager I knew Undocumented folk couldn’t get FAFSA. Very casually, I told that counselor that I was not born here and didn’t have a social, and that I needed help to go to College. She looked at me straight in my eyes and told me I couldn’t go to College, and that I should go back to Mexico. That woman broke my heart. I fell into depression, but thanks to my stubbornness or vindictiveness, I promised that I will go to College and come back to that dreaded High School one day and prove to her that she was wrong. I enrolled to Community College and learned about AB 540, our opportunities, and limitations and I accomplished, albeit with difficulty, my College goals.
But although I was able to work for my goals with my status, my little brother couldn’t.
I tried to encourage him to pursue other dreams, there had to be other interests! But it was futile. I tried to inspire him in history, art, even theater, engineering, computer science, political science, calculus…but he wanted to serve. One day he called me when I was in Gerontology class, so I ran out of the quiet classroom and answered, he was almost weeping. My brother went to a recruiter and they told him to leave because he couldn’t enroll, he asked me what could I do, what can I do, what are the options, if it was going to change, this was in 2012, when MAVNI didn’t exist. So I told my own flesh and blood, my younger brother, that he couldn’t do it, that he should consider other career options. I broke his heart, just like that High School Counselor broke mine. My brother fell into a deep depression, but he didn’t have my stubbornness or vindictiveness to prove me wrong, and he got lost in his own sadness and disappointment. He was a gifted child, so intelligent, but he didn’t want to study, he use to say it was pointless. We tried to encourage him, but our efforts didn’t bear fruit, and by the time MAVNI was created in 2014 it was too late, my brother lost all hope and he no longer wanted to pursue anything. It was a battle just to get him to school, to do his homework, to pay attention. The only thing he did was to read his old books and punch the walls out of frustration.
Unfortunately my brother found comfort in drugs. There was nothing we could do to help him, we told him he had an addiction and that he needed to talk to someone to get better, but he refused. So much heartbreak, so much worry, to see the light in his eyes fade just a bit more every day, his smile disappear and be replaced by a frown or distant glazed eyes. He started to commit petty theft offenses in order to sell those items and get his fix, and one day he got arrested. That arrest caused him to be transferred to an Immigration Detention Center, and I tried to help my brother. It hurt me that I had all these contacts as an organizer, an advocate, an activist, all these Immigration attorneys, but it didn’t make a difference. I’ve fought people’s deportation, and our efforts sometimes succeeded, and yet I couldn’t save my own brother. He finally, after months in the Detention Center, Voluntary Departed. My brother suffered, he saw injustice, cruelty, and negligence in that Center, his desire to stay in the only country he has ever known, was not enough to endure the inhumane conditions in terms of emotional, physical, and psychological abuse.
In Tijuana, he received help from many people, but temptation of the temporary release of drugs won over his well-being. It was torture for my parents and for me. My dad lost so much weight, he is nothing like the man of my childhood, my mother’s blood pressure skyrocketed that I thought she was going to suffer a stroke any minute. The thought of my brother being in a strange country and suffering from addiction, forced them to make the decision to leave the United States of America. My mom was the first to go, and then my dad would follow a couple of weeks after.
I am alone.
I don’t know when I’m going to spend a Christmas with my family. Advance Parole is unpredictable, so it is not guaranteed I will be approved by that date. If an emergency occurs I would have to acquire the appropriate evidence and then go beg for an Emergency Advance Parole, perhaps by the time I get it, it will be too late. So here I am.
But, I won’t let the Bastards Grind Me Down. They might think I’m a joke, a political chess piece, a criminal, a leech, a parasite. Well, Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum.
Until I meet again with my family, I will stay. I will fight this tremendously outdated Immigration System, and because I am stubborn I will stay just to try to ease the pain of another child going through the same situation as my brother. I aspire to never let it happen again.
Perhaps, I will get negative criticism for this post, but I invite every person that reads this post, to educate themselves on their immigration system. The system your grandfather used, is not the same in the present, and yet it hasn’t changed for certain individuals since the 1960s. I encourage every person to look deep within themselves and admit their own limitations, and accept education. But most importantly, is to remember that they are human and that you are human. There is a humanity issue in the United States. Laws, are not always just or moral. Laws can be wrong. Laws do not define humanity and morality.