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There is no right or wrong way, only how it happened

Not every immigrant story starts out the same way.

I’ve heard many, including those of ones I love, ones I’ve documented. I’m compelled and taken by them as they’re all special. My pen and the writing I do bends toward these types of stories. But the reality is that none of these stories are better than any other. Hear my heart as I write through this.

There is no right way. There’s only the way it happened.

Some of us arrive in the dead of night on a rocking sea, vomit-covered shirt soaked and stained while the boat of tied-together rafts and tires falls apart as it hits the shore. Some come backed and sponsored by employers that are bringing them here to work. Others stowaway on big steamers that chug their way toward the golden shores of America, weeks and weeks hiding beneath cargo.

Then there are those who strip down to their underwear, their belongings in a single plastic bag, plunging their bodies into the cold waters of a river to rise shaking yet determined on the other side. These scenarios are truth, and most have the same purpose.

Are any of these stories better than the other? Are any of these human lives a better one to show our love and kindness to? Or are they seen as simply breaking laws, setting their humanity aside?

There were so many who came before us, seeking dreams and thrust out of nightmares by boarding boats and arriving on our shores, suitcases in hand. Our ancestors made hard choices, agonizing over whether the decision to depart the country of their birth was the right one. They were propelled out of necessity.

Documents were not plentiful, maybe a paper with their picture saying where they were from, possibly no picture at all. Regular people sought the pinnacle of crushed dreams or a safe place to lay their head, leaving nations destroyed by war and tyrants, their homes lost, seeking a place that gives credence to dreams envisioned.

We beam our brightest light out into the world, welling hope into people who have lost their own: the huddled masses. And as they reach our shores, having been beckoned by the promise shown, we shut the light off, tucking deftly away the words we’ve been taught from little up: help others first. In the next breath we shun them, fear them, those who seek to gain entry, judging them by the countries who spit them out.

We tell them adamantly that if you want to come here, to do it the right way.

I know God well, only so much as I seek him. We go way back through some very good and bad times. He has been my solace and keeper, and he loves me as he loves you. He tells me to open my arms as far as they can go and welcome in those who seek shelter, however they seek shelter. We do have a responsibility because humanity answers to each other. I can have compassion for those outside our borders as well as for those inside of it.

Is a kind word and hand up meant for those who come to us “the right way?” Does having a paper with a stamp deem us worthy before God to be welcomed and loved? Or without that paper are singular lives rendered undeserving? Automatically unworthy?

If it weren’t for that snaking river, the one that cuts through some of the harshest terrain in the United States/Mexico border area, I would not be Melissa Herrera. We make it harder than it needs to be to enter a country with so much room to breathe. There is no pathway for many to enter, only a glistening trail of broken dreams and a vast unbending land. We revel in the notion that we were born in the right place, our thankful sighs filling the still air.

There is no right way to enter. There is only how it happened and whether we welcomed or turned our heads away.

Published: March 17, 2017
New Article ID: 2017703179977