In this episode, Risha discusses immigration with Rosa Hernandez of the Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa. The Dream Alliance serves as advocates for the immigrant community through education, news and legislature.
All of this and more in this episode of Risha Talks.
Immigration is a topic that we hear a lot about. But truthfully, a lot of us really don’t understand anything about it. So today, we’re going to have that conversation. We’re going to discuss the language. We’ve gone from illegal alien, to illegal immigrant, to what the heck should we be saying now? I have with me Rosa Hernandez with the Dream Alliance who’s going to educate us today on the topic of immigration.
I am so excited today to have with me Rosa Hernandez with the Dream Alliance. Rosa, please tell us a little bit about the Dream Alliance and what the organization does.
Awesome, yeah, thank you so much for having me. So what we do, or what Dream Alliance Tulsa does, is we advocate for the immigrant community here locally in Tulsa. And that means keeping our community educated, putting out educational information, sharing anything that might be happening nationally regarding immigration. As well as, here locally, with anti-immigrant bills and contracts that the county or city might have.
What one of our big missions right now is helping as many DACA recipients, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients, to renew their DACA. And that can mean connecting them with attorneys that won’t charge them for the paperwork, and also connecting them with scholarships and funds. So they can renew their DACA free of cost.
Gotcha. So, as you know, we are talking about immigration today. And immigration has been a huge topic for a really long time. And to me, along with everybody else, it just seems to be getting worse for immigrants.
Can you talk a little bit about immigration, and why you think it’s a big deal? And I mean, people don’t seem to understand it and all of those things. So can you give us your perspective just on immigration overall?
Yeah. Immigration can be very complicated for a lot of folks to understand. Just as, you know, as well as anything that involves the legal system. It’s very complicated. There’s a lot of language to learn and all that stuff.
And sometimes it tends to be a little bit overly simplified. And that’s not necessarily the case, especially when we have folks like, well just come the right way, or whatever, that kind of stuff. It’s very difficult to come the right way. There’s really no right way to do it.
So I think that there’s just a lot of unknowns with involving immigration. And we need to take it upon ourselves to educate ourselves on what those processes are. Because whenever we do, we end up finding that it’s a fairly difficult system to navigate, especially if you’re needing to escape a violent situation in another country, or poverty in another country, or really just need to get a change of scenery.
People immigrate for all sorts of reasons. And whenever we really start to look into it ourselves and start to be a little bit more open about those ideas, then we really start to realize that it’s a very complicated system.
Exactly. And I don’t think that people humanize it enough. Like, people really don’t understand that we are talking about people. We’re talking about violent situations, or even if we’re not talking about violent situations, you just want to move somewhere else. Why do you think there are so many misconceptions around immigration for the rest of the world?
You know, I think there’s a narrative there, that we’ve had in America for a long time, that outsiders might not always be welcome, especially Black and Indigenous people of color. They might not always be welcomed in the United States. And I think that that has a big role to play in it.
Another one of the things is that Indigenous people have just been displaced so much, and that’s another one of the things that we don’t necessarily look into, is that a lot of immigrants as well are indigenous people to the Americas, you know? So and that have just been constantly moved and displaced. And we don’t really take that into account as well whenever we talk about immigration.
So I see the issue is that people just need to get over themselves. We have our own thoughts and views about how it is that we think people should live. And I think immigrants really get the brunt of that, as well as all other diverse people.
So how do we get over ourselves, and what different language should we be using? Because I know it’s gone from illegal alien to illegal immigrant. So how do we do it? What should we be saying?
Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of the time, like language does– we get better at language, and we get better at humanizing our language. And for starters, human beings themselves can’t be illegal, so just changing that to lacking documentation. So we’ve gone from using the term illegal immigrant to using undocumented immigrant.
Because we just want documentation. Our existence isn’t illegal in and of itself. The only thing that we just don’t have is the documents that we would need that to supposedly be here, which that’s also up for debate as well. But yeah, so we can go from that.
And we can really just listen and be a lot more empathetic and hear out people’s stories. Because a lot of the time we let the media feed us all of these false narratives, all of these things, that they’re terrible people, immigrants are terrible people. They have painted the picture of the immigrant being brown, Black, Indigenous, person of color.
And there’s a lot of immigrants that aren’t necessarily brown. And we need to start decriminalizing, and really deconstructing that mindset that all immigrants are bad, and that all immigrants are also brown. Because there is a huge community here in Tulsa of different people and different kinds of immigrants and stuff.
Also another thing that all immigrants don’t necessarily have documentation. There’s immigrants who have visas, and there’s all sorts of visas as well. Or that all undocumented crossed the border illegally.
A lot of immigrants have accidentally overstayed visas, or they’ve intentionally overstayed visas. Regardless of that, there’s just so much to learn there. And I think that that’s one of the things that we really need to start paying more attention to is the satisfaction with what we are being told is an immigrant.
Well, and you hit on this a little bit. But there is a narrative of a bad immigrant, versus a good immigrant. So you have any experience with that?
I do, like it’s very frustrating, because anything can be criminalized. You can immediately become the bad immigrant by making a very small mistake. So you can become that quote unquote “bad immigrant.” The big thing is that we need to realize that we can be criminalized in an instant, just by being an immigrant. Also just by being brown, a person of color.
Can you give us an example though, of what you’re talking about with a bad immigrant, versus a good immigrant?
So you have like folks that have gotten– in our community here in Tulsa like we have.