Why I changed my mind about illegal immigration

My late grandmother — the daughter of the immigrant composer — explains in an oral history tape:

A still frame from my documentary “The Way to Andina

I wondered: Could this really be true? Did my great grandmother lose her American citizenship simply because of the man she fell in love with and married?

It turns out, Congress passed a law called the Expatriation Act of 1907 which made American women forfeit their citizenship when they married immigrants. (Naturally American men who married foreign-born women suffered no such consequences for falling in love.) The story in my family goes on to suggest that my great grandmother was unaware of this law and that she learned of her “accidentally undocumented” status when she went to vote for the first time.

The more I learned, the less comfortable I became with politicians who used phrases like “we are a nation of laws.”

I mean, of course we have laws. But you don’t need to be an ultra-liberal to recognize that many of our immigration laws in the 20th century were egregiously racist. We were a nation of laws back then too — just cruel ones. And who’s to say that a century from now our descendants won’t say the same thing of our laws today? You don’t have to look far: President Trump has proposed to severely cut legal immigration in half, limiting it only to well educated English speakers (that is to say, the wealthy).

I also — and this is critical— had an opportunity that a lot of people in my home state of New Hampshire usually don’t have.

Sitting down with DREAMers was the final nail in the coffin for me.

We can argue about numbers until we’re blue in our collective faces.

Many of us feel far-removed from our immigrant ancestors

My great grandmother, Mary Rosales, who married an immigrant in 1911 was subject to the Expatriation Act.
My great grandfather’s petition for naturalization.




I’m a documentary filmmaker and all around troublemaker. More at arlenparsa.com.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

So we really need to talk about immigration reform

Suburban Women are Choosing

The Derecho diaries day five

Liberty’s Christian students collide with Trumpism

How to explain the Senate?

The Culture War: Simping, Anime and the Alt-Right

Michael Medium Essay #2

A Reactionary Augur

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Arlen Parsa

Arlen Parsa

I’m a documentary filmmaker and all around troublemaker. More at arlenparsa.com.

More from Medium

Will science diplomacy survive?

This graphics shows an interplay between science and diplomacy.

Reinventing Liberalism after the Return of History

Not for 50 years

Six Signs That I’m a Born-Again Tree Hugger