Are Mothers In Oregon Happy Today?

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.

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    I don't like the Arizona law from a libertaian standpoint. Why should people be forced to "prove their citizenship randomly? Why? because the federal government passed immigration amnesty in 1986 promising a secure border would come. Both parties have spent the last 24 years avoiding creating secure borders as well as a rational and sane immigration system. Criminal activity shifted to Arizona when barriers went up in southern California.

    First Arizonans passed tough bills aimed at employers hiring illegally, now they enact state statutes that should have been the purview of the federal government. This same government forces one to strip almost down to their skivvies when flying because this same federal government is incapable of rending air travel safe. Why would we expect anything more of their ability to provide a sane immigration policy and safe borders?

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    Speeding laws are not "anti-driver", they are "anti-speeding". The law in Arizona is against illegal aliens not immigrants.

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    If the blue's are going to press for another amnesty, please wait until after the November elections. I really don't want a bunch of R's elected again.

    BTW, the lefts constant "anti-immigrant" rhetoric has really worn thin with many liberals. The majority of liberals are not nearly as stupid as you think they are.

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    A welcome reminder that immigrants have many identities - mothers, sisters, uncles. Families today cross countless boundaries and national boarders. Any reform to our immigration policies should strive to increase the ability of families to thrive. This means ending racial profiling, raids and barriers to family unification.

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      Unify them back in their home country. I absolutely don't blame them for wanting to come here, but they are here illegally and need to be sent home.

      Family shouldn't be part of the equation.

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    My mother came to this country in the 1940s from Ireland. The Irish of her generation were similar to the Mexican immigrants of today. They took horrendous journeys to reach this country to work in low-wage jobs cleaning houses, waiting tables and taking care of other people's children. She grew up in extreme poverty and took what little money she made and sent it home to her mother, father and siblings. What made her "legal" was U.S. policy at the time...we as a nation accepted her, albeit begrudgingly, because we needed cheap labor.

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    In Portland the number of immigrants is nearly double the rest of the state, as the City of Roses has developed into a primary refugee resettlement area. The City of Portland Immigrant and Refugee Task Force released a report on the status and community development goals several years ago, and cited 1 in 6 Portlanders as immigrants.

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    My mother brought most of my aunts and uncles to the United States from Vietnam in April-May 1975 via a harrowing flight with mortar shells exploding around them during takeoff. My grandmother didn't make it on the flight and fled to India where her husband/my grandfather's family was from. She was only able to reunite with our family thanks to my mother's connections to a US senator and the fact that she needed to raise my aunts and uncles.

    One of my uncles who didn't make it on the flight also fled to India, where he waited about 20 years before being able to step foot in Portland. This country needs a comprehensive immigration policy that not only ensures our nation's safety, but puts families first.

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    When I think of the Arizona law, it reminds me of those espionage movies behind the Iron Curtain or during WW2 when the hero/heroine sat anxiously waiting while thuggish officials walked the aisles of the train to arbitrarily harass and bully passengers. It's not anything I ever thought we would see in America ever and it makes me wonder what has become of us as nation that we fear others more than we love our liberty. We are the ones who are recklessly dismantling our civil liberties in the blithe assumption that the abuses will happen to others, not to us.

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      Personally, Ruth, I don't see any difference between the behavior you describe and employers requiring a urine sample. All it took was Dick Thornberg simply proclaiming, "It's a normal part of the job process" for most to swallow it. Accept that as business as usual, and they will move on to things like we are seeing in Arizona.

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    Kalpana, I really appreciate your perspective, and the reminder that most of us in this country have an immigrant heritage. I also am a first generation immigrant (my father immigrated from Syria in the 1950s) and I'm aware of the ways that in the past our immigration policies in this country have reflected racial prejudice rather than economic analysis. When I think about what happens to families of undocumented workers in this country, not to mention the fear that a policy like Arizona's creates in anyone who might be stopped and questioned because of their ethnic heritage, it just makes me furious. How dare we, who have benefited so much from this country, deny others those same opportunities?

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