the shackles of freedom

I’ve heard them talk of the East where the
giant green woman stands proud
welcoming passengers with open arms

the only open arms here are those
ready to usher us into cells,
iron cages where we will rust under bright lights

I enter the station where the people crowd,
schools of fish pulsing in swarms, like the ones we eat at home
I stand with shaky legs near those who sound like me, on the edges

I am shoved along with rough hands,
someone from home tells me to write in a bone-colored book,
my name looks like a skeleton

they lead us in solitude, one at a time,
through blank hallways, empty white-washed walls
their black uniforms like oil clouding the sea

I cannot follow the American’s steps,
I do not walk as fast as he does, or how sure,
I do not have the right shoes—mine are too scuffed, too grey.

I do not always know what he tells me, at home I know what to say,
but here every word sounds like a question.


1,000 Marriageable Girls in 1907

1,000+ immigrant women from the Baltic arriving at Ellis Island

The Washington Post wrote an article in 1907 on the arrival of 1,000+ women from European countries that came to America seeking husbands. This drew considerable attention from young American men, who waited at the pier for the arrival of their ship the Baltic, so as to catch a glimpse of these women and consider these potential suitors. The article also asks women aboard the ship where in America they will settle as they search for husbands and what kind of men they are looking for. Some seek “rich Americans,” others like “tall men and blonds,” but some will marry “if [they] can find anybody to have [them].” The article concludes with the statement, “it is thought that the proposals will come thick and fast,” demonstrating a general positivity toward immigrants coming to America, specifically women. Not only were European women seeking husbands in America, the men favorably accepted their arrival. This emphasizes the favorable  regard with which Americans accepted immigrants in the early 1900s, especially when they arrived from European countries, such as England. In addition, if such immigrants were seeking a better life in America and were willing to assimilate into the culture, in this case by marrying an American man, then Americans gladly welcomed their stay.

Today there is talk of foreign women marrying American men to achieve green cards so that they can live legally in America. If such a large volume of women arrived in the U.S. today seeking marriage, would they be equally as welcome? It seems marriage between immigrants and Americans was accepted publicly in the early 1900s, but do we carry the same opinions today?

Woman on the Baltic seeking marriage in America

marriageable women column

Original Article from The Washington Post (1907)

Article within the page of The Washington Post (1907)

Article within the page of The Washington Post (1907)

sources: Bain’s New York: The City in News Pictures 1900-1925 (article images) (first image) (second image)

Illegal Immigrants Divided Over Importance of Citizenship

cover final

photo 1 final

photo 2 final

story final

I found this article earlier this week in my Thursday copy of the New York Times and decided to scan it in. While we argue about whether or not illegals should receive citizenship, some could care less what we decide. This divide speaks to the dire situation many find themselves in upon immigration to America. Many are more concerned with making their living and providing for family outside of the states than they are about whether or not they receive the full benefits that those around them receive. “They aspire to become Americans… but would settle for less if they could work and drive legally, and visit relatives outside the country.” On the other hand, there are those who think that the matter requires more attention. Immigration reform supporters insist that “any alternative would create a disenfranchised underclass.” Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, posits that “to codify a person who lives in this country but will never have an opportunity for citizenship creates a second class. It seems completely un-American.”

Lady Liberty

I carry nothing but hope and a Bible. I open it.
An outdated photograph. An unfamiliar face. My father.

My favorite church dress is mutilated,
soiled by my own bodily fluids.

My stomach angrily speaks to me. Why can’t you help me?
Food is placed before me. I am not hungry anymore.

I feel trapped. I gasp for air, but the
putrid smell of shit and vomit is overwhelming.

The wind begins to howl, and as it does, so do I.
Mama shushes me, telling me that I have to be brave.

Children ask me to sing with them. Sing for what?
There is nothing harmonious about this journey.

I see a lady dressed in green, a torch resting in her hand.
I reach out to touch her, but the fog prevents my success.

Free at last. Free at last.
Is that you, father? Is this really freedom?

“Necessary” Drones to Fight Immigration

NPR reports: Congress is calling for more drones to patrol the U.S./Mexico border in new immigration reform bills. These drones contain highly specialized technology, equipped with a “night camera, day camera, low-light camera, and laser target illumination,” some of the same devices used in drones patrolling Iraq and Afghanistan.  What does this push for more drone usage along the border say about America’s opinion of illegal immigrants? These drones have highly specialized equipment, yet are not armed, but they might as well be.  Such tactics to try to control illegal immigration seem extreme–using these drones to locate people so that ground officers can apprehend them is aggressive and excessive. What’s more, Congress is calling for drones to patrol the border 24/7, an increase from the 16 hours they are doing right now. What does this say about the way we view immigrants trying desperately to come to America? Yes, some of them may be involved in illegal activities, but some are just searching for a better life and opportunities they can’t find at home; crossing the border illegally may be the only method they can afford. Employing extreme measures in dealing with these illegal immigrants seems heavy-handed and even unnecessary, as NPR reports,

“[Some] say the emphasis should shift from border security to interior enforcement, such as employer verification. That, they say, would catch those crossing illegally, the people employing them, and those who entered legally and overstayed their visas.”

This extreme method of controlling our borders seems disproportionate to the means and the cost. Not only does the use of drones seem aggressive and excessive, it sends a powerful  message that America is severely restricting its borders. Are we still open to receiving immigrants nowadays? It our increasing border control simply our method of curbing illegal immigration? Or is there something deeper happening here–are we acting out of fear?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Drone

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Drone, equipped with specialized cameras to catch illegal immigrants

sources: (article) (image)

Ellis Island Arrival Video: Early 1900s


In order to begin to better understand what immigration was like in the past, I was curious to hear immigrants discuss their experiences. In a video found on the History Channel’s website, immigrants from the early 1900s reflected on the moment when they first arrived to America, recalling their emotions during that time. During the early and mid-1900s, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. The first thing that they could see was the Statue of Liberty. It was the sign that they had made it. The immigrants interviewed in the video recall the screaming and crying that occurred once they could see the Statue of Liberty. It was a moment unlike any other, because it was an affirmation that they were about to experience firsthand America’s reputation as the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.

Furthermore, to the immigrants, the Statue of Liberty embodied an actual person; they desired her acceptance. Immigrants perceived the Statue of Liberty as welcoming, which contributed to their extreme excitement as they arrived to America. The fact that the Statue of Liberty faced the incoming ships with her back turned to America exhibited her acceptance of the immigrants. In listening to the stories of immigrants from the past, it is evident that their own opinions on immigration erred on the side of positivity. They were hopeful and exhilarated by the possibility of a new life.

9/11 and Immigration

After seeing the difference in photographs of the U.S./Mexican border in the past and present, I decided to take a closer look at how 9/11 impacted American public opinion on immigration. I’m linking an article that brings up some interesting points about discriminatory government policies that take place after 9/11. Here are some highlights:

“In 2001, there were roughly 18,000 criminal deportations compared to a projected 91,000 in 2012 — roughly a 400 percent increase, according to data from TRAC.”

“With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security came an avalanche of federal funding. Last year, a pair of economists estimated that the creation of Homeland Security cost the U.S. $589 billion from 2001-2011. Immigration enforcement increased dramatically after September 11. Immigrant removals — including deportations and so-called voluntary departures — went from roughly 200,000 people in 2001 to nearly double that in 2011.”

“An investigation by The Huffington Post into private detention centers in Arizona found a discomforting relationship between corporate profits and private prison growth. Chris Kirkham reports:

In Washington, the industry’s lobbyists have influenced policy to secure growing numbers of federal inmates in its facilities, while encouraging Congress to increase funding for detention bedspace. Here in this southern Arizona community, private prison companies share the spoils of their business with the local government, effectively giving area law enforcement an incentive to apprehend as many undocumented immigrants as they can.

This confluence of forces has contributed to a doubling of the ranks of immigrant detainees, to about 400,000 a year. Nearly half are now held in private prisons, up from one-fourth a decade ago, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The two largest for-profit prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc., have more than doubled their revenues from the immigrant detention business since 2005, according to securities filings.”

To add to this, I also think back to an article I read a while ago. It referenced a futuristic movie, Airplane II: The Sequel, released in the 80’s with a comedic scene that takes place (obviously) in an airport. The airport security use a body scanner that produces images of passengers’ naked bodies, and the joke lies in the male security guard checking out the female passengers. The author of the article brought up two points, saying that he never would have believed someone if they had told him that this technology would real in just a few decades. More specifically, it would be more surprising to learn that not only would we be made to display our naked body to airport security, but almost everyone who flies by plane would be ok with it. I completely agree that I would not have seen this as a possibility a couple decades ago, and I wonder whether 9/11 was the major influencing factor there. If the public couldn’t be persuaded by threats of a plane going down if everyone didn’t follow through with this process, I doubt that anyone would be on board for the current TSA policies in airports today.