Going Home, walking between borders and Living in the House of Trump

It is obvious that Trump and his followers doesn’t think we belong here.

Who do I mean by “we”? Brown skinned immigrants. His wives are immigrants, but he never talks about dirty Russians or suspicious Eastern Europeans. Black Americans, people who disagree with his politics – obviously also other.

My kids always use “American” as short hand for white American. I ask, do you mean “white American?” or “Black American?” or “Asian American?” Clearly, they perceive our otherness, in this culture and in the House of Trump. “American” defaults to Whiteness.

A Trump supporter yells, go back to Africa, go back to Mexico, tells all “Muslims” to go back to Islam(!??!). The US Supreme Court allows for the forcible internment, imprisonment of all people of Japanese descent, their US citizenship not protecting them. I learned about this as a child and realized that this belief – the belief that we are not really American, even if born here, this applies to me. This place has always been the House of Trump.

My mom always calls the Philippines “back home.” A US citizen for decades but the Philippines is always back home. A reader of my blog (thanks for reading!) asked me whether the Philippines is home. And I have been thinking a lot about it.

I was born in the US and grew up only understanding every nook and cranny of American racism, white supremacy, hatred of women. The Philippines is respite for me, where my small Asian body feels more at home and not alien, but the culture, the politics, the colonialism and its impacts are mysteries I experience only at Skype’s length of through Facebook posts. But the US can never totally be home because it includes the House of Trump and its inhabitants feel like they could kick us out at any moment, no matter citizenship.

I remember vividly the joy of returning back to the Philippines for the first time. I was astounded that my family could greet me with open arms, that the country recognized me as a returning fellow countryperson, a member of the diaspora, even though it was my first actual physical step in the Philippines. I was relating this to my friend, a Black-American and he said he wished he had that. The brutality of American-slavery was the destruction of that return home. Where would he go? To the place of his enslavement? But the US is his because his ancestors built it – it became a world superpower because of 400 years of slavery meant an accumulation of wealth at the hands of the ruling elite that no one could match.

The US is mine, because I was born here but I will always be a stranger too. The Philippines is home because my heart was born there, but I will always also be a stranger. Children of immigrants, we walk borderlands, we follow whispers, we dive into deep caves. And let’s not kid ourselves, the House of Trump has always been here. This country was built on equal parts genocide, slavery, war, imperialism, AND hope, revolution, protest, and resistance. As always, the question is Which Side are You On?

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Welcome Home Artchan (& our messed up immigration system, plus real questions about the Pilgrims)

You may have looked at our picture above and said “Wait! She said there were 3 kids, but they are only 2 in the picture.” Or maybe you didn’t notice because the picture looks so much like a commercial for a TV sitcom that you were too busy imagining yourself as the cool auntie/uncle that stops by to teach the kids how make spitballs or farting sounds with your armpit. But back to the task at hand – who is this mysterious 3rd child and where did he come from?

Artchan is Charina’s 5 year old son and to explain why he just now joined us – I have to do a brief run-down of our messed up immigration system. More than 22 years ago, my mother, as a naturalized US “citizen”, petitioned for one of her sisters and her brother to come here as “legal” immigrants. I put “legal” in quotes because “legal” and the corresponding “illegal” and “citizen” and “immigrant” are all just fluid, legal, constructs. Our society changes the meaning – for instance in this country’s creation story – what are Pilgrims anyway? Today, they would be called EWI’s – illegal aliens who Entered Without Inspection. A lawyer today would have to tell Captain John Smith – “I don’t care if you marry Pocahontas – you can’t get legal, and if you leave for England, you will be banned for 10 years from coming back.”

The tragedy of it all is that the average wait for a family/sibiling petition for someone from the Philippines is 20 years.  Can you imagine? A lot of life can happen in the span of 2 decades. In my Aunt’s case – she became a mom and then a grandmother by the time her petition came through – 22 years later. Which left Auntie Alecia and her daughter Charina with a terrible choice – because the petition would allow Charina as an unmarried child under 21 to come under the petition, but NOT Charina’s son/Auntie’s grandson – Artchan.

Of course, in an age of forced migration caused by massive global, economic inequality this is a story that is well worn with tattered pages for millions of the people of the world. The 3rd world IS the 99%.  Just go into any western union and see the ads for sending flowers to the funeral/wedding/graduation of a son/daughter/abuela/spouse  that a migrant worker has had to miss while toiling away in the shadows of the 1st world.

The heartbreaking thing is that those in the Global South are so used to making these “choices” between a whole heart or surviving the trash heap that they were thrown into by unrelenting capitalism, that the impossible choice become commonplace. Of course – if given the chance to go the US, the land of milk and honey, you go. It’s like winning the ultimate lottery in the global monopoly game. If you didn’t take it – what would it say about the game?

After Charina arrived with that green card in hand – she could petition for her son. That took 3 years. Well, actually after 2 years she was approved, but then when we got all the paperwork together – we called the visa center and they said “Well yes, you did have visa BEFORE, but NOW we are backlogged again, so we can’t give you a visa anymore.” So back in line we went, and every month we had to check a “Visa Bulletin”, that would tell us whose number was being called. Every month we crossed our fingers and held our breaths. And then after 6 months of this, his number was finally called again. This time, all our paperwork was already iin, so the process went smoothly.

This July, Charina was able to bring her baby with her. And we are so happy to have him here. But, it is bittersweet, his family back home misses him terribly, especially his father. His father will never get a visitors visa to come here – he would be deemed a flight risk.

But still. We welcome Artchan into our barangay! We had been saving a spot for him for the last few years. Our hearts feel better now that he is here, with us, but really he has always been in our hearts while we waited for that golden ticket.