Wendy Cuevas

Legal Alien

What is the American Dream and is it a reality for immigrants? The big house with a white picket fence we hear so much about in all American movies is one version of it, but for others, the American Dream is being able to put food on the table for their families in a country with so much hatred for them. We have so many different versions of what we believe to be the ideal lifestyle. Some of us have different struggles we face and have to find a way to overcome them. Some of my earliest memories include moving every year to a new city, new house, new neighbors, new school, new everything. I always wondered why until I realized that it was for my undocumented family to find jobs to be able to support our living situation.

As a little girl I remember my girlfriends telling me that I had to be prepared for whatever happened if at anytime they were for whatever reason to be taken away. Of course, I did not understand what it meant to be undocumented or considered an alien in this country, but it felt like everytime the police were around, my aunt was breaking her neck to make sure it wasn’t a nice vehicle ready to take her away and leave us alone. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood what it meant and how they wanted me to go about things if anything were to happen, but the problem is it wasn’t just me, it was me and my siblings, my cousin, and her other brother. We hear about it all the time– children being separated from their families, whether we hear about it on the news or from person to person.

Nobody ever thinks it could happen to them until it does. My parents were still around, but like most are working all day trying to support our family, so all we were left with at home was my grandmother. My grandpa was at work too. Even though we still have that fear because, although my parents are both documented and able to go and come from Mexico as they please, most of my family does not have that luxury, and they have not been able to see their home since they’ve left. I have known people go as far as to even get a fake passport and fake documentation in order to see their families. It is not right that we have to go on living with this great fear. If they had been in the United States legally, there would be no problem or reason for them to be afraid; but it is not that easy when my father started the documentation process, there were times where I would not see him for months at a time. Just ten years old, I had to babysit my siblings as my mother was working to pay for all of this, even after becoming documented. I heard people in the United States whom we had never even met, strangers, calling my dada “beaner in a wet vac,” yet when we went to Mexico, he was a success story–someone who had made it out of an impoverished country, a “rancho.” For us, we just saw him as our dad, but everyone else saw him as a hero or someone who had done such a great thing.

In reality, these students are being targeted because military recruiters know these kids are looking for a way out of the struggle.

Growing up, my grandparents and father told me to study to be a lawyer, so that I would have a great future and be able to help them and many other immigrants who wanted to get their documentation to be legal citizens in the United States. This was a high hope they had for me at a young age, but it was not something I wanted, so I felt like I was going to disappoint them by telling them no. Even though I’d sometimes feel like majoring in psychology, it was not the right choice because, although it is something that I love, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything to help with their situation. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to help, but it feels like a huge responsibility, something that is too much of an issue for me to deal head on by myself. And there are others who have felt the same way I do, children of immigrants who want to help in their parents’ situation but aren’t sure how. Our former President Obama once said, “What makes somebody American isn’t just blood or breath but allegiance to our founding principles and faith in the idea that anyone – from anywhere – can write the next chapter of our story.” For centuries immigrants have been coming to the United States bringing their culture and traditions along with them. If this is so wrong, then why do we use so much of what they bring in our traditions? Yet people who have different skin colors are looked at as differently, no matter how much we say that racism is unacceptable. It’s still there. People are discriminated against for more than just their skin color. Some more examples of this are people being judged for their gender, clothing, sexuality, disabilities, or religion, and under our recent president [Trump], these issues have become a greater deal because of his willingness to spread hate. By him doing this, others feel that it is okay or right for them to do the same. When others do the same, it strikes fear in those who are being targeted. They have to look behind their backs everywhere they go and make sure they won’t be attacked just because of their background or where they came from. Nobody should have this fear especially when coming to a new country in search of a better life.

In past years, immigrants have helped the United States in various ways, from connecting people through music and art to fighting in the military for our country. People of other countries have done so much for the United States yet are still looked down on. How is it that people can spend their whole lives trying to improve the country they live in and are still looked at differently or less than? Abraham Quintanilla said it best in the hit movie Selena “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time. It’s exhausting.” And he was right. In being multicultural or biracial, you are expected to be good at both things, and again, looked down on if you lack certain skills or knowledge. It’s never a win-win situation. You have to make sure you’re doing everything right or speaking the language correctly, exactly the way your grandparents our ancestors speak it or you are called whitewashed. Of the six armed services, each composed of over two million men and women, of those on active duty, 15% are Hispanic or Latino, 16% are black, and about 69% are white. Also most of those in the military are from low-income families. Recruiters go to high schools and neighborhoods with lower-income families, and, of course, when someone wants to go to school but can’t afford it, they are offered the opportunity to go to school for free. They will take it. Sometimes they don’t even take it for themselves; they take it because they want to make their family proud and to show their parents that they are more than what they are seen as.

The element of being a trickster comes up in this situation because the recruiters think that going to schools and offering students good opportunities, making sure they feel comfortable with them, showing that they’re fun, makes people want to join. In reality, these students are being targeted because military recruiters know these kids are looking for a way out of the struggle. An example of this happening would include my friend Jesus from Yucaipa. His plan was not to join the military because he wanted to, but to join and stay there long enough to get the benefits for himself and his family. Once he gets back, he plans to go into community college and get a degree in kinesthetic sciences.

Discrimination is not only wrong and unethical but also illegal. But that doesn’t stop people from doing it. We see it every day, including with those who are at the center of the media on TV, the news, movies, and social media. When those people who are considered famous are okay with racism, discrimination, and treating others less than they deserve, this brings room for others to do it too. “If they can do it and gain fame and power from it, why can’t I ?” Seeing these hateful individuals in the public eye makes others want to act and be the same way they are because they think that in doing this they will also gain the same attention that the other person got. This leads to copy cats and overall thoughtlessness. In recent years this has been a growing issue. We cannot say that racism has completely been gotten rid of at any point in time, but we try to include diversity in our day-to-day lives. Having individuals in the public eye who are good people and do good deeds increases the likelihood of others doing good. An example of this would be when Kylie Jenner, daughter of Olympic champion Caitlyn Jenner, linked to vote.Oregon via Instagram, leading to a 1500% user increase to register to vote online. People are more easily influenced by those they look up to. This goes to show that even if we don’t realize it, we tend to follow what goes on in the public. This can range from who we see in our ads, what we see in our magazines, as well as what we see in the windows at the mall. It’s all a part of our subconscious mind even if we don’t feel like we’re thinking about it.

Now imagine walking into a store and being offered a job on the spot. Well, in this case, a sophomore from Northwestern University is always being offered a job at Abercrombie & Fitch. In the article “Going for the Look but Risking Discrimination,” the author Stephen Greenhouse says that Elizabeth Neal is a beautiful tall girl, a walking model. Managers want a beautiful person working at their stores believing it will bring in more people into the stores. But is it right to discriminate based on looks, age, sex, and ethnicity? They tend to look for the ‘American Girl’ look. But there is no blueprint for what an American girl should look like, so what do they do? They tend to look for someone who is tall, pale, blue-eyed and will appeal to the eye of the buyer. It’s discrimination that some people have been looking for work while others automatically get the job just by walking in. It’s disgusting to automatically hire someone based on looks. In the article Greenhouse says that if someone came in with no retail experience, they would have a better chance of getting hired because of their ‘pretty face.” If someone who they thought unattractive had lots of reputable work experience, they would lose out to someone who is considered more attractive. Every brand wants to produce an image, every company produces their own image. Greenhouse calls this “finding a brand enhancer, a walking billboard.” The store wants to only hire attractive young adults. Some companies have been sued for this. Brown should be about originality with different looks and ethnicities opening up to more than just one beauty standard.

The theme of being a trickster comes up again when looking at beauty standards from past years. Every generation has their own beauty standards and what they believed to be the perfect personal or attractive, so why is it that when we look at ads or when companies look for people to be in their advertisements, they look for people who they think are beautiful or what goes with this generation’s beauty standards? If companies were to use people with beauty standards from the last decade or the decade before, they could appeal to a greater variety of an audience because not only would they be showing what the newest generation thinks is attractive and wants to be a part of, but also the generation before. Better yet, if they were to appeal to the beauty standards of more than just one country they would draw a bigger crowd and more attention to their brand. In knowing all of these things, we understand that the beauty standards that the industry uses are not always accurate and even if we believe they are, they are accurate for the time being. The standards the society tries to hold up may change next year or even tomorrow. This relates to traditional trickster stories because of the false sense of pretending to be something you’re not in order to be accepted. Whether people do this for a job interview or to fit in with a new crowd of people, it seems like code switching is a major issue. We tend to maintain this act whether it be on social media or in our personal life with friends, so that we can be sure to remain in this mindset of thinking we are something that we’re not.

Work Cited

“Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” ​National Archives and Records Administration​, 2013, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/29/remarks-president-comprehensive-immigration-reform.

Rodriguez, Adrianna. “Latinos Are the Fastest Growing Population in the US Military, but Higher Ranks Remain out of Reach.” ​USA Today​, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 11 June 2020, http://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/nation/2020/05/23/latino-hispanic-military-high-ranking-commissioned-officer-positions/4668013002/.

Martin, Nick. “The Military Views Poor Kids as Fodder for Its Forever Wars.” ​The New Republic​, 7 Jan.2020, newrepublic.com/article/156131/military-views-poor-kids-fodder-forever-wars.

Greenhouse, Steven. “Going for the Look, but Risking Discrimination (Published 2003).” ​The New York Times​, The New York Times, 13 July 2003,www.nytimes.com/2003/07/13/us/going-for-the-look-but-risking-discrimination.html.

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