So many things once considered highly unlikely to occur are now beginning to seem possible. The “Me Too Movement” appears off to a good start. Consider the young ladies in Virginia who decided to begin running for public office — any office initially – if laws were to be passed helping women run their own lives, be in charge of their own bodies, have equal pay with men, stop being harassed on the job by bosses and supervisors. And so Alabama voters surprised observers when they sent democrat Doug Jones to the Senate in a special election. A significant number of black women are now running for office in Alabama. Stacey Abrams won the Democratic primary for governor in Georgia last month, becoming the first black female candidate for governor from a major party in the U.S. At the age of 36, a young man, Randall Woodfin, democrat, became the mayor of Birmingham, the city’s youngest mayor in more than a century. And Minnesota has the first black mayor of a capitol city, Melvin Carter! We call him ‘Our brown-eyed Mayor’.
So why not find more hope for illegal immigrants like Janelle, a recipient of the DACA or Dream Act, first passed during Obama’s administration which deferred deportation proceedings for two years for qualified individuals brought to America illegally when they were children. In the absence of congressional approval, this would provide a path to citizenship for certain immigrants brought here illegally who do not present a risk to national security or public safety. No government related benefits were available even after DACA which did include health insurance in some states such as N.J. But as Janelle pointed out with a shrug of her shoulders, “You cannot acquire a credit history and with no credit history or social security number, you just cannot get anything social security related. With no stock market investments, you cannot create wealth and the only loans must be in all cash! Look at this” she said, showing me what looked like a Social Security card. “What looks like a Social Security Card is a ‘Given Valid for Work Only Card’ which is useless for any other use. You can’t acquire savings with that!” she said in a subdued, defeated voice. Thus, not until the Dream Act was passed by Congress in 2012, could she apply for DACA citizenship. The 7-page application submitted along with documentation and a worksheet application for employment authorization cost $495.00.
Janelle had arrived on a 6- month visa at the age of 14 with her mother who enrolled her in a high school much different from her Trinidad High School. Her eyes gripping mine, she told me of the agonies of never fitting in but eventually graduated from high school while still living with her mother. I could tell it was difficult for her to talk about her mother as her fists clenched as she folded and unfolded a kleenex. Caressing my hand between hers, a smile suddenly lit up her face as she told me of a wonderful Jewish woman, looking for someone to move in with her to help her with her aging mother. During the four or more years she stayed there, thrusting her arms over her head, with an ever widening smile, she said, “that dear woman paid my way to college for two years and modeling school for a year — and that’s how I became a model!” She showed me some of her modeling photos on her I Phone posed in varied glamorous settings, one with her on the SNL show posing with the Week-End Review guys. I was impressed. She reminded me, though, that with no social security card, she could only accept cash, and so she tried to learn as much as she could about photography,and all aspects of staging a production and behind the scenes work. It seemed to me the Twin Cities with its many theatrical settings might provide such options. The next day she met the young lady who assists me as “A Personal Assistant,” in dejunking and reorganizing my huge house and its gardens. Being of similar age, these two vibrant young ladies have become quite good friends in doing ‘girl stuff’ when their work is done in my home‘. Her other friends with whom she has previously stayed in the Twin Cities also set her up with contacts and interviews They, too, continue to line up work possibilities.
It is hard for me to imagine how frustrating it must be to find work as an illegal immigrant — trying desperately to find odd jobs off the books to help support herself since her mother, also an illegal immigrant, could be of little help. “I found my mother impossible to deal with. She started dating someone she decided to marry and hopefully gain legal status. But, can you believe it? Unfortunately she neglected to legally divorce Dad even though they had been separated 23 years!”
Similar hardships among today’s immigrants applying for Asylum along with Janelle’s continuing efforts to defeat all odds against her continue in future blogs. You won’t want to miss it. Stay tuned.