My mom is a housekeeper. She has cleaned houses for the last 20 years to support my family in a place known for its decadence, ostensible wealth and retired citizenry -- Naples, Florida. When I was younger, I never understood that her profession wasn't a choice, but rather a necessity. Instead of admiring her ability to juggle work and motherhood, I grew up ashamed and found excuses to tell my so-called friends about my mother's "choice "of work. There's not many things I regret, but undermining my mother's extraordinary ability to tackle the last 20 years of her life in this country as an honest domestic worker, a great and generous mother and the rock in our family is one my biggest missteps. My mom is a shero in disguise and, unfortunately, this country deems it necessary to deport people like her.
The reality is that my mother, a hard-working undocumented woman (who just recently became a legal permanent resident after 20 years), is not unlike others in my community who have lived extraordinary lives under the radar. Individuals who, day in and day out, drive their kids to school in fear because they don't have a license, work a 12-hour job that pays less than minimum wage with a constant threat of deportation from their boss, hide mental and physical pains in their bodies because they don't want to worry their kids and don't have health insurance to take care of it. People like Lazaro from Lee County, one county over, that get stopped for driving without a license after driving back from the hospital with his ill son. These extraordinary human beings take risks and make sacrifices every day for their families, which is the stuff that comic book sheroes are made of.
They hold the skilled and nuanced ability to juggle all that comes their way, but in the eyes of the immigration system, they are just "unskilled workers" and "ordinary criminals", who don't have the extraordinary talents and abilities to deserve a work visa when compared to unicorn-like immigrants like Justin Bieber. Because hey, we can't all be as extraordinary as celebrities. We just have to settle for our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who put food on our table and care for us daily.
In reality, the blasphemy we are witnessing with the recent Justin Bieber arrest is that it takes a lot less to detain and exile immigrants with supposed "ordinary" lives for doing ordinary things, like driving their kids to school, than it does to punish the Justin Biebers of the world; "extraordinary" people who make the same, potentially avoidable mistakes us ordinary people do.
Here we are, in 2014, dealing with a detention case that our community only dreams of. A situation, which usually ends up in deportation for more than half of the calls I get from Immokalee, that gets dropped through bond; an individual that ironically gets saved by the very same detainer policy communities in Miami fought so hard to get approved last December; a lucky immigrant who will never know what it feels like to be a commodity in the eyes of private prisons, being fished and caught for a bottom-line; a one-in-a-million case that will want for nothing in the legal sense, having access to the best lawyers in the country; a human being that will never become part of the fuel for the deportation machinery as one of the 34,000 detainees held to meet a quota.
Still in 2014, we wish our parents could overcome the racial disparities and financial privilege to win out against the system, as did Justin Bieber. But even he doesn't deserve to get deported for mistakes made by ordinary people everyday. This is the same reason individuals, like my mother (yes, legal permanent residents can still be detained and deported), Lazaro and others soon to be or currently detained immigrants don't deserve to be deported for surviving life, under exceptionally extraordinary circumstances. Instead of focusing on who "deserves" to get deported, I want to focus on protecting all of the "ordinary" people in my life and community who continue wearing an invisible cape for the sake of their families. This is what is at stake, what truly matters. These are our unicorns.