Friday, June 18, 2010

finally see undocumented immigrants as human when they announce that they're going to kill themselves

This is a guest post by Daniel Cubias, who blogs at The Hispanic Fanatic, where this post first appeared. Cubias also writes a column for the Huffington Post, and he writes of the Hispanic Fanatic, who may or may not be an alter-ego, that he "has an IQ of 380, the strength of twelve men, and can change the seasons just by waving his hand. . . . the Hispanic Fanatic is a Latino male in his late thirties. He lives in California, where he works as a business writer. He was raised in the Midwest, but he has also lived in New York."

I want to thank Chris, Rose, and Ankhesen Mie for their recent comments, as well as everyone who responded to my most recent article for the Huffington Post. The 160 or so comments I got on HuffPo are the most I’ve received for one article. And only a few people there were nuts and/or unruly.

That post, of course, was about the shooting death of a teenager, which clearly is a depressing topic. So these days, I’m looking for a sliver of optimism out there. I may have found it.

Now, I’ve written before that I’m a fan of PostSecret. This is despite the fact that too many of the secrets are actually just sappy affirmations. And I also think it’s odd that the creator of the site includes at least one image of a female breast in every week’s batch (that’s not a criticism; just an observation).

In any case, PostSecret may have achieved a goal that all we bloggers have, which is to save a life. This accomplishment has, for some reason, eluded me on this site.

But PostSecret may have done it. A few weeks ago, the site ran the following:

Yes, for some inexplicable reason, the illegal immigrant who made this card feels that Americans would be happier if he just dropped dead. I don’t know where he got that idea. . . unless it was the nonstop barrage of right-wing media outlets blaming the undocumented for everything from the economic collapse to imaginary crime waves, with rage-filled commentary that implied individuals without papers are less than human.

But really, I’m sure that had nothing to do with it.

So did the illegal immigrant jump to his or her death? No one knows.

With hope, however, this person saw the response that the secret provoked, and maybe this changed his or her mind.

“Time” magazine reports that, because of the postcard, “within 24 hours, nearly 20,000 people had signed up for a Facebook group titled ‘Please don’t jump,’ which was . . . linking in thousands of supportive comments.”

PostSecret adds that in the week since the secret was posted, “over 50,000 of you joined an online community offering encouragement and help” and that earlier this week, “hundreds are meeting on the Golden Gate Bridge to take a stand against suicide.”

I have to admit that this is quite a showing of support for one scared illegal immigrant. The outcome serves as a much-needed antidote to the hateful comments about the shooting death of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca (again, see my previous post).

Does this mean that there is still a kernel of compassion left in the increasingly jingoistic American soul? Is it possible that many people see the undocumented as fully human rather than as pests to be exterminated?

Well, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?


  1. This... this is incredible. It feels like one of those happy stories from that website. "Gives me hope". Not the suicide part (obviously) but that so many Americans were briefly able to see past the skin and at least try to make a difference in his life.

  2. I love it when Postsecret posts postcards about stuff like these. I am happy that there was evena Facebook group created to plea to that illegal alien not to kill her/himself.

    and yeah, I can't stand "sappy affirmations" on Postsecret, either, I'd rather see "dark" secrets so that we know we're not alone in our loneliness and despair.

  3. Maybe the response was to keep from feeling the guilt if the person was to kill him or herself.

  4. @Anna Renee

    Usually I'm as cynical about these types of situations. But in this case, they will never know if the person killed themselves or not, so I don't think it's about their personal guilt.

    Now, let's all cross our fingers and hope that maybe, just maybe someone learns a lesson from this and extends it into further relations with immigrants, legal or not. Looking at you, Arizona.

  5. Am I the only one cynical of the whole thing. The secret, the facebook group, etc.

    Lets say that secret is true. Its its true for one person, thousands more most likely feel the same. But to make headlines about some secret? Y'all just now wanna feel compassion for an illegal immigrant? That facebook group rubs me the wrong way....I really think that a good portion of them are just jumping on the bandwagon.

  6. angel, I am quite cynical as well. It strikes me as emotional terrorism.

  7. It is much easier for humans to feel empathetic towards an individual, much as it is easier for us to malign people in groups. I think it may also be easier for single individuals to empathize with one individual - where in groups, people tend to join in pack mentality and either laugh or plain ignore another person's pain.

    This is why, the general advice is that, if you are hurt or being pursued by an attacker, you should take refuge a crowd but make your appeal for help to one person. You are more likely to be helped that way.

  8. Hi, long time lurker and first time poster.

    Yeah, that post secret really struck me. But I wonder if this sudden support stems from some type of collective guilt about the current treatment of illegal immigrants. It just makes me wonder.

    Though I do hope the person chose not to jump.

  9. @Daniel Cubias

    "Does this mean that there is still a kernel of compassion left in the increasingly jingoistic American soul? Is it possible that many people see the undocumented as fully human rather than as pests to be exterminated?"

    Of course there is that kernel and many people do recognize illegals as fully human.

    How can one nurture that kernel and use that recognition of another's humanity to counter the kind of crap you mention in your earlier post such as the "One down, 12 million to go" line.

    There have to be better ways than joining a facebook group. No? Getting 50,000+ to do something more than that would be really nice.

  10. Meh, I'd be more convinced of the facebook group's actual, genuine concern if they were doing something concrete to improve the lot of undocumented immigrants in this country. Or even actively fighting general racism. It's easy to exhort one person "not to jump" without paying any attention to the systemic issues that drove him to that point in the first place, and are bound to be a factor in hundreds of other suicides no one knew to make a facebook group for.

  11. I'm going to be really optimistic. I'm going to say that I don't think the people who rushed to form the Facebook group and protest "didn't care about migrants before".

    I'm going to say that I believe that they never agreed with or never understood the magnitude of hatred towards migrants, but this one incident presented them with a concrete way in which they could help.

    I always think of situations like this as "what can I possibly do with my two hands?" Hundreds of migrant peoples dying in the desert as they desperately try to cross over---what can I do about that? Me, one person, with limited resources, who happens to be miles away from the setting of the situation? It's overwhelming, so my tendency is to do nothing.

    But one person reaches out and says "I'm in trouble, I don't know what to do" and suddenly there is a clear, immediate way in which a compassionate person with limited resources living miles away can help.

    Maybe it doesn't do much. But it makes a difference to that one (hopefully still living) person, and perhaps it motivates the FB people and others to do another small thing for someone else, and pretty soon all those small actions add up.

    Sure, signing up on a FB page or joining a protest might be a small step. But sometimes a small step is a first step on a bigger journey. And sometimes it's just a small step, but at least it's a step.

  12. My heart goes out to that young man or woman who does not feel worthy. I have been there, and I know what it feels like. His or her being undocumented does not change the fact that everyone deserves love and respect in their lives. (Could we please use non-sexist language? Also, keep in mind that this person could be of any race, not just Latino.)

    However, and I hope this is not an inappropriate forum for saying so, I do not personally feel that undocumented immigrants should receive amnesty or a path to citizenship, unless they came here with their parents as young children. (I am a supporter of the DREAM Act.) As a second generation South Asian-American, I have seen the amount of effort and time that legal immigrants put into navigating the current immigration system. My own family is a testament to the American Dream, but they did it legally. They were also driven by a myriad of economic & social circumstances to leave their home country. I don't believe that undocumented immigrants are all bad or all potential criminals, but their actions were/are illegal and I believe that immigration laws should be enforced. Can someone please explain how my position is dehumanizing or racist?


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