Maritza Ruiz-Kim

Artist, San Francisco Bay Area

Americans

My persepective on the recent immigration debate is definitely influenced by the fact that my grandfather swam the Rio Grande while pushing his children who sat on top of the flat raft he built, so that he could get them to America. When my mom tells me the story, she tells me how safe she felt on that raft despite the raging water, because she trusted so much in her dad that she was not afraid at all. She was five years old the first time she crossed the Rio Grande with my grandpa like that. I have always been proud of my grandfather, who sacrificed for his family and brought my family here. We are all Americans. I read in Time Magazine about how this whole debate can come down to- What is Your Definition of “American”? Is it the fact that you are already here, or that you subscribe to a set of ideals?
And the notion that immigrants are taking jobs from Americans… are you going to relocate your family to a small town in Oklahoma so you can work at a chicken factory for minimum wage? I think not. Mostly the people who are affected by immigrant labor in a negative way are men who don’t have high school diplomas. And I am not saying that as a slam against guys without those diplomas- there are people I know who don’t have ’em- but they have succeeded despite that, by working hard and using their talents- they have risen above. But immigrants, they keep working hard at jobs most people don’t want, and it makes the standard of living for most people better & cheaper.
Mostly, I just want people to have empathy and admit, if you had kids and you lived in a very poor country that was right next door to a very rich country with lots of opportunities- you’re telling me you wouldn’t try to get across the border? I just thank God that my grandpa brought my family over when it wasn’t as hard as it is now, and yes they all became American citizens, but- they crossed that Rio Grande first! And they got detained or deported at times! But here I am, living in a suburb, and raising my family, married to a Korean guy whose parents came from Korea after the war- we are a nation of immigrants, and no one should forget that. And here we are- an American family, with one little two year old boy, and another little boy on the way.
Important info from the April 10th Time Magazine article “What It Means for Your Wallet”
“Is all this immigration good for the economy? By and large, yes…. immigrants are consumers, too, and 80% of what undocumented workers earn in the US stays in the country.”
“The majority of immigrants, in fact, pay taxes, even the undocumented (via fake Social Security and taxpayer IDs.) Through 2002, illegals paid an estimated $463 billion into Social Security. Their takeout: almost nothing.”
“Immigrant workers pluck our grapes, stock our shelves, grill our burgers and clean our offices- for pay that lets us keep our own wallets plumper. Morever, their work gives employers more time to put into higher-paying work and leisure time. A vibrant laborer population could even create white-collar jobs….”
Anyway, with all this talk, I can say “I’m proud to be an American” without a corny feel in my stomach, because I am almost 100% Mexican, too. And I am so proud of all the marchers today. Very proud.
(FYI: my father’s family is almost all of Mexican descent –my great-great-grandfather came from Prussia– and all the rest were native Mexicans. Around 1850, the land became more US than Mexico. So my ancestors on that side never came into the US, but the US came to them- just an interesting tidbit.)

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