The Time I Realized I was an Immigrant, Too
I work in a well-known sports bar chain restaurant, in which both its employees and customers are mostly white; making me, an Afro-Caribbean woman, a prominent eye within the store.
I often get asked the question "What are you?" Followed by a back handed compliment that my black is ‘too unique’ to solely be from African lineage. I would still reply, black, but my answer never seemed to be fulfilling; it did not answer why I pronounced my words so harshly, stuttered when I spoke fast, nor how my hair sprung into coils. So I continued, stating my parents are from Jamaica. While I wait for the conversation to turn into reciting’s of "yeah mon," "say this in Jamaican" and “I've been to (insert the name of some four star resort)”) instead I hear, “so you’re an anchor baby!” Anchor baby. An anchor baby is a derogatory term used to describe a child whose birth prevents their undocumented parents from being deported.
Neither of my parents made it to high school, as education in the Caribbean is treated as a privilege, not a right if it cannot be afforded. My father started working at fifteen picking tobacco and traveling back and forth between the United States and Jamaica as a sugarcane farmer. My mother was forced to take lessons from a local seamstress on how to sew, which ended up being a trade she later despised as it reminded her of her lack of education.
My parents moved to this country for the lure of the ‘American Dream,’ a place where if you worked diligently and were determined anything could be yours. Coming to the United States of America, my family soon learned the lesson that the “American Dream” was not as easily accessible for all. Basic necessities such as access to high-quality and affordable healthcare weren’t afforded to all but to those who had the resources to obtain them. Being an “anchor baby” did not benefit my family when I realized that I too - indirectly shared the hardships many immigrants faced, that my mother being denied access to health increased mortality rate while growing in her womb. That my father not being able to afford health services had economic disadvantages, as unresolved health issues could have hindered his ability to work. Despite being deemed as “legal” being a citizen of the United States, I lived everyday as if I was not because my family who came to this country with the hopes of a better life and worked day and night to provide for our family were denied access to basic resources because of a flawed immigration system.
According to Pew Research Center, there are 3.8 million black immigrants in the U.S., half of those 3.8 million being from the Caribbean and from that 3.8 million, thirty percent of the population living in Connecticut. As a Generation Action intern for Planned Parenthood working in Hartford, CT, I am working to improve the lives of those who live in my community. It is essential that we provide a voice and a safer space for people who may feel lost in a new nation. I am working to provide them with knowledge on their new environment and encouraging them to participate in the beneficial, low cost services that Planned Parenthood has to offer. Planned Parenthood provides quality and affordable reproductive healthcare services to over 65,000 people in the state of Connecticut annually. We are an organization that won’t turn anyone away, no matter what their immigration status, financial status or anything else is. With Generation Action I hope to build power and awareness in my community so that we can fight against an unjust system that denies people the basic human needs for life simply because of their undocumented immigrant status. Immigrants documented or not, live to survive and providing essential, exceptional healthcare should not stop our survival.