I know many immigrants. They are primarily my students, and they hail from countries nearby like Mexico and from places far away such as Bosnia, Russia and Sudan. They have come to the United States both legally and illegally. Their reasons for coming are as varied as they are. Some came to be adopted. Others with their parents who were seeking jobs or relocating close to other family members. They are political refugees fleeing war torn homelands or seeking asylum from religious persecution. Above all they are kids who smile and laugh and do all the same things that kids do regardless of where they live on the planet.
I hear the rhetoric and read the news. Immigration is a hot topic in the upcoming presidential race. The president wants to create a guest worker program for those who are living and working here illegally. It is not an entirely altruistic gesture. Businesses benefit greatly from the use of cheap undocumented workers. I am not sure I completely go along with the argument that these workers are doing work that would go undone without them or that the low wages they are paid depresses wages for the average American citizen. There is probably more to it than that. I do know that there is no way to stop many of these people from coming here and there is definitely no practical way to send the millions who are here already back to their countries of origin. Giving these people status might keep them from being exploited to the extent that they are.
Ironically I find myself on the immigrant side of the question these days because I am marrying a Canadian and going to live there. Immigration, it seems, is not the simple thing that our President makes it out to be in his stump speeches. There might be a reason so many poor, under-educated people from south of our border chose to sneak past the Minutemen zealots who patrol their little stretches of border. It is not simple.
I have a college degree. Two in fact. And I am finding that the correct information pertaining to my situation to be not quite so comprehensible at times. It’s like anything else to do with government here, or anywhere I would imagine. Everyone reads the same websites and pamphlets and then feels free to interpret it. English is my native language but even reading the information myself doesn’t always answer questions, and I find myself more and more empathizing with illegal parents of my legally born students. Doing things by the book should mean that the book is easy to read and understand. How can people follow the rules if the rules change depending on who reads them and what kind of a day he/she is having?
It is exciting however. To go and live in another country. In the states we tend to annex Canadians whenever it is convenient for us. Generally we believe that they are just like us in all things and it is more than just a common language and ancestry that we share. But they are different it seems to me and it goes beyond the “politeness” that my fiance claims Canadians are famous for and this in spite of the fact that they “swear like truckers”. I don’t believe that Canadians feel themselves to be above the world or that there aren’t places beyond their border that are worth more than a cursory inspection on the way to Club Med or the nearest version of McDonalds.
One of the first things I am asked when I mention that I am going to live in Canada after Rob and I get married is if I am going to become a citizen and would that mean giving up my citizenship. I don’t know. About becoming a citizen. For the moment, I just want to live in the same place as my husband and be able to send my daughter to school, but I do know that if I should decide to do that someday I would retain my citizenship here as well. A curious thing that people should worry about that. As if they believe that giving it up would exile me to something worse than a third world existence.
The next question relates to the weather. Winter is a long season up in Northern Alberta and those who know me (and those who live in Canada and have only heard of me) wonder how I will adapt. And the answer is that I will. I have a lot of incentive after-all.
I have always marveled at those who could leave everything behind and start over. Envied them really. I have never been too sure that I had it in me to do anything like that, but in just a little more than two months I will be in Canada.