I find myself tired and sick today; and sick and tired every day. I have theories about women and a certain kind of sensitivity. Women and a certain kind of sickness, especially stomach sickness. Women and what is and isnâ€™t digestible in the world. What sickens the body. What cannot be tolerated.
Thinking about a much-older cousin of mine in the Netherlands, whom I havenâ€™t yet been able to meet. She was very close to my dead father, who hid her in his home in the Philippines, just before she fled the country. The Marcos regime was killing off people like her. She continues to live in political exile.
Thinking about Jose Maria Sison, poet, former CCP founder, current National Democratic Front Chief Political Consultant, current political refugee. Joma Sison, who left the Philippines after the end of the Marcos Regime, for the Netherlands.
Joma Sison, who in 2007 was arrested by the Dutch government working in co-operation with the Arroyo regime, already famed for its widespread, state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings, particularly of peasants protesting corporate land grabs, students, activists, Communist and NPA (New People’s Army) members, sympathizers or suspected sympathizers. The reason given for Sison’s arrest was his “suspected involvement” with three assassinations in the Philippines, all his assets frozen.
The day Sison was arrested, several homes of his fellow exiles and community organizers were also broken into and searched by the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Unit, without warrants. During the raid of her home, Sison’s wife, Julie de Lima-Sison asked for the search warrant; two or three of the men on the team claimed that in the Netherlands, a search warrant was not necessary. To search without a warrant was “legal.” A judge later appeared on the scene, to “officiate” over the process. (Body of one who practices the law suffices as substitute for law itself?)
Thinking of Joma Sison, placed by the Dutch court into solitary confinement, denied access to his prescription medication and, according to DEFEND, tortured in the same penitentiary where Nazi soldiers tortured Dutch resistance fighters.
End of the story, beginning of the story: the court had no evidence. If anything, evidence surfaced that in 1999 and 2000, there had been two assassination attempts orchestrated by the Philippine government, on Sison’s life. Sison was released. A Luxembourg court removed him from the EU terrorist list and reversed the decision to freeze his assets, claiming that EU governments had breached European law by not informing Sison why his assets had been frozen in the first place, under the EUâ€™s anti-terrorism laws. The United States still considers him a terrorist.
Thinking of Melissa Roxas, the Filipina-American poet and activist, who, along with two colleagues, was abducted and tortured by the Philippine military while conducting community health work in Tarlac. Melissa Roxas, one of the few abductees (of thousands) ever to be released; one of the few people alive who can personally testify to the Arroyo regimeâ€™s state-sponsored enforced disappearances and killings.
Berna Ellorin, chair of BAYAN-USA: â€œThe torture of Melissa and the triple abduction of Melissa, Juanito and John Edward are directly linked to the VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement] and U.S. military aid to the Philippinesâ€¦ The U.S. government cannot claim ignorance or wash its hands of responsibility, when it is U.S. advisors who are training the Philippine military. The recent uncovering of â€˜the torture papersâ€™ shows that the U.S. has never stopped employing torture as an â€˜enhanced interrogation technique.â€™ It is utterly appalling that [U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time, Robert] Gates is pledging more support for the Philippine military, in light of Melissaâ€™s sworn testimonyâ€¦ Her abduction should give Congress and the Obama administration even more reason to stop pouring billions of dollars into a regime that abducts, tortures, and kills innocent people.â€
Joma Sison was arrested on my birthday, August 28, 2007. His arrest doesnâ€™t have anything to do with me. Or: it has everything to do with me.
Goes without saying: all of this done with full co-operation of the law.
Thinking about John Berger writing about Pasoliniâ€™s La Rabbia:
In Ancient Greece. the chorusâ€¦ represented the city, they came from the agora, the forum. Yet as chorus they became the voices of several generations. When they spoke of what the public had already recognized, they were grandparents. When they gave voice to what the public felt but had been unable to articulate, the unborn.
All this Pasolini does single-handed with his two voices, as he paces, enraged, between the ancient world, which will disappear with the last peasant, and the future world of ferocious calculationâ€¦
The film lasts only an hour, an hour that was fashioned, measured, edited forty years ago. And it is in such contrast to the news commentaries we watch and the information fed to us now, that when the hour is over, you tell yourself that it is not only animal and plant species which are being destroyed or made extinct today, but also set after set of our human priorities. The latter are systematically sprayed, not with pesticides, but with ethicidesâ€”agents that kill ethics and therefore any notion of history and justice.
Particularly targed are those of our priorities which have evolved from the human need for sharing, bequeathing, consoling, mourning and hoping. And the ethicides are sprayed day and night by the mass news media.
The ethicides are perhaps less effective, less speedy than the controllers hoped, but they have succeeded in burying and covering up the imaginative space that any central public forum represents and requires. (Our forums are everywhere but for the moment they are marginal.) And on the wasteland of the covered-over forums (reminiscent of the wasteland on which he was assassinated by the Fascists) Pasolini joins us with his Rabbia, and his enduring example of how to carry the chorus in our heads.
For a long time I have been obsessed with August 2007. I wrote a book that takes place entirely during two weeks in August 2007. Some times have a vibration in your life, work. Like memory, or historical pain. Hereditary pain. â€œHereditary tears,â€ Pasolini says in La Rabbia, talking about the period of forced migrations in Hungary during 1943 and 1944.
You can’t stay there, though. It vibrates, but it’s not a place to live.
The subtitle of the one book I want to write, have to write, and which I cannot yet write: UTRECHT.
Thinking about Jose Antonio Vargasâ€™ story. Thinking about who was illegal in my life and who received amnesty. And who never will.
Thinking about the position of privilege from which I write today; which is to say, from which I live. As a “legal” person. As a “documented” immigrant in England. (That said, for over a year, I had no acknowledged, documented proof from the UK government of my right to reside within its borders, and my legal status was dependent only on my treaty rights as the spouse of a European Economic Area member. No official papers.)
My position of privilege as an American-born child of two naturalized (this word, which gives pain—pain of how to make something natural, which isn’t; this word, which has nevertheless been an opening for so many; the way a pore or healing wound is an opening; the opening through which I was able to climb into the world, into my American life) Americans.
Thinking about the word illegal, and the word undocumented. I find I do still use the word illegal, as often as I use the word undocumented, not because Iâ€™m not fully aware of the pain and shame lodged in the former, but because I want to remain mindful of the pain and shame of both. Of what continues to be at stake. I continue to use both because what I most deeply want to call into question is the drive to legitimization and assimilation that doesn’t always put on trial the justice of the law itself, or the documents that happen to prove it. Which is less dehumanizing, to be outside of the corrupted rule of law, or to be unwritten by the paper that serves its jurisdiction? To be illegal, to be undocumented; to be legal, to be documented. But the issue isnâ€™t only (or at all) the green card, or even citizenship. Just as, for example, the issue for queers—and Vargas writes about the process of coming out of this closet, too; about living clandestinely in multiple ways—isnâ€™t only (or at all) marriage rights, or the right to openly enlist in the military. When what passes for “legal” is complicit with the most heinous of abuses and inequalities, then the illegal ceases to be a place to hide. It has to also become a place to stand. A place to fight.
Thinking about Vargas and his exceptional, inspiring story. Is it also because this story is exceptional, inspiring, assimilationist, and aspirational that it is published in the New York Times? “I grew more aware of anti-immigrant sentiments and stereotypes: they donâ€™t want to assimilate, they are a drain on society. Theyâ€™re not talking about me, I would tell myself. I have something to contribute. To do that, I had to work…”
Iâ€™m actually very proud that he came out so publicly and how he changes the face of undocumented immigrants in U.S. but what bothers me is that when people read/hear about his story and then think of mine, naturally, they might begin to compare. Or at least I do. I mean how many stories of young undocumented filipinos coming out publicly do you come across?
Well, one probably (his). Maybe a few more here and there. Nothing as ground-breaking as his though, making me now extremely self-conscious about telling my story ever again.
When I emailed Jose about coming out over a month ago, he didnâ€™t respond. I was pushed by both my tito Jerry Clarito, Executive Director of AFIRE (Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrants Rights and Empowerment) and Lawrence Benito, Deputy Director at ICIRR to contact him, but no reciprocation.
We really wanted to initiate a collaboration to ignite a fire (haha, pun intended) in the filipino community to take on leadership in the immigrantsâ€™ rights movement. After several weeks, no response.
Thinking about the first page of comments on Vargas’ article. About the practice of reading and responding on the Internet. Thinking about what John Berger says about forums, and choruses.
Thinking about the lines people are always drawing in the sand, informed by which reasons, and for what end. The â€œlegalâ€ working class distinct from the â€œillegalâ€ working class. The â€œgoodâ€ illegal working class (that is: productive, possessing of hard-work ethos, eager to master—and be mastered by—English), from the â€œbadâ€ illegal working class (lazy, parasitic, dangerous, attached to languages other than English). Separated into groups discrete, competing, alienated. As if all of these lives arenâ€™t already mutually making each other possible. As if the fights aren’t kindred.
Thinking about enforced vulnerability, precarity and social exclusion—the global production of homo sacer—as the cornerstones of profit. A making-disposable of everything. Thing here now has to mean: body. A making-disposable of a body. A thing.
David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants
The labor of undocumented workers pumped tens of billions of dollars into the state’s economy—$45,000 per person—but the workers themselves were paid only a small percentage of it–%8,840 each. They received a much smaller percentage of the value they produced than that received by workers who were either citizens or legal residence. This difference is a source of extra profit for industries employing a largely undocumented workforce—agriculture and food processing, land development (including the residential construction and building services industries), tourism (including the hotel and restaurant industries), garment production and light manufacturing, transportation, retail trade, healthcare, and domestic services.
Undocumented workers, considering whether to organize a union to win better wages, have to take into account the possibility of being fired… Undocumented workers who complain about unpaid wages and overtime, wages below the minimum, sexual harassment, or violations of health and safety laws run the same risk.
These draconian exclusions are intended to make life unpleasant for undocumented migrants, who presumably are encouraged to leave the country. But by making them more vulnerable and socially isolated, the exclusions make their labor cheaperâ€¦
The global economy has turned insecurity into a virtue, praising it as necessary to increased flexibility and competitiveness.
Wendy Brown, “Sovereignty”:
It is global capital that integrates if not unifies the diverse peoples and cultures of the world, and subordinates all other powers to its own. It is global capital that creates the conditions for all life while being accountable to none. It is global capital that mocks nation-state claims to control their own fate, protect borders, decide laws and priorities; indeed, it makes them look like the last gasps of feudal fiefdoms at the dawn of modernity. And neoliberal political rationality, which disseminates market rationality across the social and governmental fields, is nothing less than a prescription and endorsement of capital as global sovereign.
While I would usually rail with others against those who just sneak into developed countries, expecting the better life, I admit that not all things are as they seem.
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Thank you for being so brave as to tell your story–we are all the better for it.
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A wonderfully told story of an admirable life.
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I hope you earn the citizenship you deserve.
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Mr. Vargas; I wish you all the best!!! And I do hope you can stay in the country you love so much.
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No one owns this country But the God of Heaven. Therefore, if your parents and great-grandparents were given the chance/opportunity to live in this country, why be hinderance and stumbling block in the path of others who desire the same opportunity. That in my oppinion is Major Hipocrisy!!!
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I know of many hard working and honest illegal immigrants, who pay their taxes and are yet stuck in the very same limbo as you. I am not one to condone illegal immigration, but we have to accept that there is a huge problem in the US which needs to be addressed.
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Vow! You have guts! I wish you all the best. I a stange way after moving away from America you made me recollect the real face of America; full of compassionate humane people who would stick their neck out, put their own jobs on the line to help a deserving young child realize his/ her dream. I have had my share of them too!
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The pain the author suffers is the attributable his family. Iâ€™m sympathy to a solution that doesnâ€™t encourage illegal immigrations, but I havenâ€™t seen one purposed.
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And rather than go into my own conflicted feelings on your situation, I just want to wish you the best, no matter what happens.
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I think that everyone would agree that this guy has guts. I always thought the ancient Romans had the right idea though: foreigners had to serve for at least 30 years in the Roman army (at great risk to life and limb) before be granted Roman citizenship at retirementâ€¦ I have nothing against these folks staying in the USA if really needed, but we can’t continue to hand out citizenship like bubble gum in America. By doing this, we hurt ourselves by degrading our country’s imageâ€¦
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I wish you roses all the way.
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Human interest makes for compassion and not policy. There are dozens of lawful entry visa points into the US including several for example for those facing certain persecution. If indeed, a ‘better life’ must be one of those categories then how many people would want entry and presumptive rights and benefits of US citizenship?
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What you mean to say is, “My Life as an ILLEGAL ALIEN.” The Times really needs to stop with the euphemism “undocumented immigrant.”
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The issue here is that, though you are an undocumented alien, you chose to learn English properly and adapt the American Culture.
There are millions of undocumented aliens here who have chosen not to do what you have done. They demand that the Americans speak Spanish and do their way rather than adapting the culture of the new land.
There is a big difference here. You chose to be productive, while most aliens drain our medical system by using hospital emergency room as their primary care at tax payer’s expense, using public school system at tax payer’s expense (5K – 10K per year per student), etc.
Send these aliens back home. There is no other country in the world as naive as the US. If I were lost in Mexico, would I get free treatment at their emergency room if I got sick? would my child get free public education? would the people I interact with speak English at my demand?
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It is sad but the reality is that everyone in the world wants to come here. I have family in europe that would give it all away to come here. It just isn’t possible. It is especially sad that parents and grandparents cheat and perform illegal acts that affect their children. “Sins of the fathers”. It is important that everyone come here the “right” and legal way so that it is FAIR to everyoneâ€¦
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Without any disrespect or reducing the difficult situation that you are in, if you were a pro foreign golfer who could hit a ball 300 yards, you’d be granted legal status, a green card, and plenty of opportunity!
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Thinking about the people who deserve it. Because of that word: “earn.”
Bare life and bottom line rhyme.
So what makes for a good story. An epic story. A story, wonderfully told. You learn English. You pay your taxes to a government that doesn’t recognize your life. You work hard. You work to be worth saving. You’re worth saving because you work.
So what makes for a good story. A story you can tell. A story that’s worth putting on paper.
La Rabbia, which means rage—the kind of rage that’s contagious:
â€œA new problem bursts into the world. Itâ€™s called color. Itâ€™s called color, the new extension of the world. We must admit the thought of thousands of black or brown children. Black-eyed children, with curly hair on their necks. Other voices. Other glances. Other dances. Everything will become familiar and will enlarge the world. Infinite vistas of real lives claim, with an innocent ferocity, to penetrate our reality.â€