I Immigrant

Born in Cuba, I am not an exile. I came to the U.S. with my parents and sister thanks to a resident visa, the so-called green card, though I can't recall its actual color. I was a legal alien, a documented worker. 

The world has an ongoing immigrant crisis, often tragic, as in the cases of recent news. People flee a troubled land to one that appears untroubled. The people in the untroubled land are troubled because they believe the immigrants are bringing, well, trouble. They are. Just check out that popular tee shirt that reads "Homeland Security", shows an Indian war party and adds "fighting terrorism since 1492." 

Everybody comes from immigrant stock. Maybe someone in Africa descended from the original humans doesn't, I don't know. How long ago immigration took place influences how people feel about new immigrants, thus the punch line in that tee shirt. Cubans in the U.S. who hail from the first wave of immigration provoked by the Revolution call themselves el exilio historico, and they've been known to look down their nose at the more recent waves of marielitos, from the Mariel boat lift, and balseros, from the raft and contraband immigrants that are still coming. Since  my family came here before the Revolution, I claim belonging to el exilio prehistorico. Me and Marco Rubio. And Jose Marti.

History is like tectonic plates, constantly shifting, sometimes violently. I've experienced a handful of very minor tremors and the fear I felt was that of quite literally losing ground. We live our lives as if having two feet on the ground were secure, as if the planet weren't hurling through space and bodies weren't hurling themselves at us, as if we could go to the movies or school or work without being shot at, as if one day we didn't have to pack our belonging -- if we were lucky enough to do that -- and move to another land. 

Long ago, a Jewish friend told me that Jews were always conscious of a possible pogrom and every family had an escape route. A clueless gentile, I don't know if that is true. But I do know that packing belongings and moving to another land is quite possible because I already lived that. That what looks stable can all change. That the ground can move under me. That home is a comforting construct all too short lived. That an immigrant crisis is nothing but the sum of many individual and family decisions. And that fashioning a politics on feelings of intrusion from the Other is not only unkind but delusional. 

There is no place called home because a tornado, whether an act of history or God, can blow home away and you with it. Bon voyage, immigrant. Bienvenu.