We Are All Immigrants Here
An interview with immigration lawyer and artist Carolina Rubio MacWright
During Women’s History Month, Voto Latino has been uplifting stories of women who inspire us. In this installment, we talked to Carolina Rubio MacWright, an immigration lawyer and artist from Colombia whose work embodies her “passion for trying to make sense of fear and the loss of freedom”.
We sat down with Carolina and talked about her life and art.
VL: You’re an immigration lawyer, and you get to experience first-hand our country’s unjust immigration system. What motivated you to do immigration law?
CRM: Interning for the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin and McAllen, Texas was a wake up call to the harsh realities happening on the border. I got to help multiple battered woman who shared their story of the trek through the border, and it touched my soul. How tangibly I could help someone was very gratifying. This experience combined with interning at the public defender’s office in Oklahoma, defined my calling.
VL: How does your own personal experience shape both your work and your art?
CRM: My experience allows me to better understand people’s choices. As an immigrant myself in this country as a professional, I had pretty much one single “visa route” to acquire my residency, and it was both a financial and emotional sacrifice. So many people think it’s easy to get an immigrant visa to this country, when it is not at all. I try to relate those frustrations through my art and have compassion towards my clients.
VL: What inspired you to paint, and what inspires your art today?
CRM: Freedom and the taking away of freedom is my greatest motivator. I can’t stand still or quiet when I see someone that cannot have freedom, whether it be incarceration, kidnapping, or freedom of expression. As an attorney you can only help clients, the ones that know the taking of freedoms all too well. Wanting to touch a wider audience, I decided to take a more activist role in shedding light to issues of social justice like incarceration, abuse of immigrants in the work place, crossing the border, etc. So with my passion for art and legal knowledge, I’ve been creating pieces to share in public spaces, galleries, universities, with the idea to motivate our community and start the conversations that luckily, today, are happening everywhere.
VL: What don’t average Americans understand about immigrants or the immigrant experience in the U.S.?
CRM: People forget that our immigrant experience started with our founding fathers, thank you Lin Manuel Miranda for Hamilton. Our laws have changed as we have needed immigrants in this country, throughout history we change our face to friend or foe.
So much has happened in the last 30 years in immigration patterns and the laws have not changed to “catch up” with these realities of globalization and our current state of affairs. There must be just reform to our unjust immigration system in order to humanely address this issue that affects millions of people. Detaining and separating families is not the answer. I encourage all to reach out to your representatives and demand attention to the matter.
VL: What can we do to be better allies towards immigrants, especially during such uncertain times?
CRM: Compassion is our greatest friend. People don’t realize that picking up your life and starting in a new place, where you don’t speak the language and you have no network is not only a huge risk, but it’s extremely hard. People do it because they have no other option for survival. When looking for compassion, look to your ancestors, this country was built by immigrants fighting for a dream that we can all live together respecting our differences and gaining the benefits of diversity. Open up your heart and don’t be afraid. SI SE PUEDE!