Two weeks after being in Tucson I went to a dinner event. While there I was sitting at a table with four people around my age and one older man. The older man asked every person at that table where they were from except he skipped over me.
It was uncomfortable not being asked because I had been in the city for two weeks while everyone else had either lived in Tucson their whole life or a large portion of it. The man asking questions and I were the only white people at the table and the only two people who didn’t have to say where we were from. Being white, it was assumed by him that we belong. Even though in this instance, I most definitely didn’t belong. And even 7 months later, I still don’t belong.
I am a migrant. I don’t belong in Tucson. I don’t belong to this city and this city doesn’t belong to me. I am just a temporary resident. But I don’t get questioned about this. In general, it is acceptable for me to be here, whether permanently or temporarily because I am white and I have a US passport.
In claiming an identity as a migrant, I have began to wonder many things.
Why am I not called a migrant? I am praised for moving and traveling. I am told that I am “adventurous and brave.” But the people I have met who have to wait in Mexico while they petition for asylum are braver than me. I am not brave enough to move to a new country even though I have the choice, yet these people don’t have a choice. Their only option is asylum and they have endured much more than I have. They are brave and have taken a big journey in hopes of a safer and better life.
Why is it beautiful and amazing for the Monarch butterfly to migrate across North America every year but its not ok for humans to do the same? Butterflies don’t need to be documented. There are no restrictions on where they can go and how they can live their lives. Why do humans need that?
Am I a migrant that is “here to take people’s jobs”? The YAV program works hard to ensure that we are volunteering in supportive roles that wouldn’t be filled by locals were we not here, but where is the guarantee? I am only in Tucson to work for a year and leave. But it’s socially acceptable for me to do this. If I were born in Mexico would it still be acceptable?
Why am I “legal?” Why can I travel 2,200 miles to be here in Tucson to work only for a year, while many people from the state of Sonora, Mexico (Arizona’s southern border) can’t travel the mere 150 miles to live in Tucson. Or even visit family and friends for a day. Many Sonoran’s would be considered “illegal” if they were in this city, but it is much closer to their home than mine.
Why can’t we all be free? Free to move and live. Free to work and be in places where our lives aren’t in danger. Why do we have borders and walls restricting the movement of people and animals? Movement that has been happening before recorded history. Movement on land that doesn’t even belong to white people to begin with.
Why do I get to migrate? What is the difference between myself and the migrant many are fighting against other than my skin color and my nationality?
I have so many questions and so few answers. The more I seek the less I find. But I don’t want to stop seeking and questioning the injustices toward too many migrants in my country.