By Kalpana Krishnamurthy of Portland, Oregon. Kalpana describes herself as "an organizer, periodic knitter, and Mom".
Mother’s Day is here and I’m wondering how mothers in Arizona are feeling. I’m a mom too. I have one child and am a few months away from welcoming our second. And I’m a daughter. I’m the daughter of immigrant parents who came to the U.S. to study, to work and to raise a family. And as I contemplate Mother’s Day this year, I know that each immigrant targeted by Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law who will experience racial profiling, bias, and harassment, is also a member of a family.
Thankfully, progressives, liberals and even conservatives like former Congressman Tom Tancredo around the country are raising their voices this past week - railing at Arizona for their draconian policies and racist attitudes. This outrage, necessary and welcome, is one important component of supporting immigrants in this country as people who are here for many of the same reasons that my parents came here.
The political nightmare of Arizona may feel far away, but our states have a good deal in common. Oregon is also a state with an immigrant community. According to census data, 9% of Oregonians were born outside of the United States to parents who were not citizens of the United States. 12% of us speak languages other than English in our homes. There are 97,000 Oregonians are naturalized citizens. And immigrants in our state are subject to the same bias that outrage us in Arizona.
Since returning to Oregon five years ago, I have been witness to raids on food processing plants in Portland which left children stranded as they waited for parents who would not be coming home. I watched in 2008 as Oregon voters in Columbia County passed a local ballot measure 5-190 that put immigrant workers at risk for harassment and racial profiling. Sound familiar? Hopefully AZ’s new law will suffer the same fate that 5-190 suffered when it was declared unconstitutional. But as the legal wrangling ensues, families still suffer.
As I think about Mothers Day, and the mothers in AZ, OR and around the US, I think of my own family and our immigration story. My parents wrote letters as they awaited my mother’s visa—blue aerograms full of details about the visa process, filing applications, getting pictures and records transferred, awaiting responses from various government agencies. They are letters full of my parent’s hopes and fears and show me an immigration system that even forty years ago didn’t work well, and made families wait to be reunited. These letters show me a system that needs to be fixed, but not through proposals like the one in Arizona. They show me a system that needs to be fixed at the federal level, with attention to families and how immigration affects families in the US and families waiting to come.
My own immigration story is the story of many families, including ones in Arizona. Where our mothers were bread winners, band-aid affixers, makers of home cooked meals from our countries of origin, and mothers who eventually stood up in a courthouse and took the pledge of allegiance as part of their US citizenship ceremony.
And so on Sunday, May 9th, on the day that we honor mothers and the contributions they make, I want to call in our Oregon Congressional delegation to honor immigrant mothers by being leaders in Washington DC and ensuring that comprehensive immigration reform passes to support families in Oregon and across the country.